Len Blum

Len Blum

Len Blum Quick Links

News Film RSS

Altman Review


This isn't a tell-all doc about the iconic filmmaker: it's a love letter from his friends and family. With a terrific range of film clips, home movies, behind-the-scenes footage and never-seen stills, this movie explores how Robert Altman's work has forever changed the way Hollywood makes movies, simply because his inventive filmmaking style forced everyone else to try and keep up.

After getting his start directing industrial films in Kansas City, Altman made the jump to Hollywood in the late 1950s, annoying a range of studio executives with his preference for naturalistic, overlapping dialogue in television programmes. Then he made the jump to cinema and took the world by storm with M.A.S.H. In 1970, winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes and introducing the "Altmanesque" combination of earthy interaction, ensemble casts and political subtext. In his documentary, filmmaker Ron Mann cleverly asks many of Altman's actors to define the word Altmanesque, not as it relates to the movies but as it relates to the man himself.

Altman was a rare filmmaker who was loved by his casts and crews as well as the critics. Notoriously picky film journalist Pauline Kael famously wrote that "he can make film fireworks out of next to nothing", and this documentary demonstrates this with clips and backstage moments from his classics, ranging from McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976) and Popeye (1980) to The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993) and Gosford Park (2001). The film's focus is on his movies, although it's narrated through personal interviews with Altman and his widow Kathryn Reed and features some superb footage of his sons. It also traces his ongoing health issues, from his heart transplant to his death from leukaemia in 2006. But there's little mention of his lifelong anti-war efforts or his controversial efforts to legalise marijuana.

Continue reading: Altman Review

Meatballs Review

Bill Murray has enjoyed a career renaissance in recent years, playing the model of middle age and forlorn cool in movies from precocious youngsters such as Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson. Having cachet in the independent film community is very nice, and it does make for some good magazine articles.

Still, I miss the laugh-out-loud Bill Murray, the one from circa 1979 to 1993. And, really, with American comedy in such a precarious state at the multiplex, isn't it time he dug into his old bag of tricks? Would anyone blame Murray if he broke ranks with the art house crowd and helped revive the Farrelly brothers' career?

Continue reading: Meatballs Review

The Pink Panther (2006) Review

ABC premiered America's Funniest Home Videos in 1989, and the weekly video-clip competition has gone on to become the network's longest-running comedy series. Amazingly, very little has changed since that debut show. Videos rides one predominant joke all the way to the finish line each week - people get hurt on camera, and audiences howl.

The full-contact humor propagated by the program obviously appeals to the masses. The simple formula has worked on Videos for 17 years now. So why, then, am I still surprised when a preview audience sitting through something as moronic as The Pink Panther bursts out laughing when a cyclist crashes into a car door or a senior citizen takes a blunt object to the skull?

Continue reading: The Pink Panther (2006) Review

Heavy Metal Review

There wasn't a more seditious movie you could watch as a kid growing up in the 1980s than Heavy Metal, a film that not only relished in its sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but was animated, too. The collection of a handful of hand-drawn sci-fi vignettes are loosely connected by an evil, glowing green ball which tells its story (huh?) to a young girl it soon plans to kill. Some of the stories are funny. Some are gruesome. Some look cool. Some are drawn terribly. All of it amounts to a graphic, guilty pleasure that features a soundtrack from the era's biggest rock groups. And, uh, Stevie Nicks. Anyone from the era will love it, while everyone else simply won't get it at all.

Stripes Review

This sloppy but popular comedy stands just behind Bill Murray's best movies -- Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation -- in quality, but stands with them in establishing the film comedy as we now know it: irony-soaked, lowbrow, and funny. As late as the mid-'70s, too many film comedies were earnest, cute throwbacks without a single real laugh. (Thank God for Mel Brooks, who made the only consistently funny comedies of the decade.) Supposedly hilarious films like Shampoo and The Goodbye Girl (or insert another '70s comedy here... I'm having trouble remembering any of them) now seem naïve and lame -- all the more so for trying to be trendy and sophisticated. Such films tried harder to please the critics than the crowds, not by being highbrow but by being frothy.

All that was dead the moment Bill Murray threw the candy bar in the pool in Caddyshack. Critics hated Caddyshack, and called Saturday Night Live skits "mean-spirited," but for everyone else, it was finally OK to be crude, clever, offensive -- and funny. Subsequent films like Stripes, often featuring one or more cast members from SNL (Murray, et al.) or Second City TV (Harold Ramis, John Candy), set the mold. The formula hasn't needed much tweaking since then, either; the successful comedies of recent years (There's Something About Mary, American Pie, etc.) owe everything to them.

Continue reading: Stripes Review

Len Blum

Len Blum Quick Links

News Film RSS



                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.