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Videodrome (1983) Review

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Videodrome

Time:  84 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains content that may offend
Cast:
James Woods as Max Renn
Debbie Harry as Nicki Brand
Sonja Smits as Bianca O’Blivion
Peter Dvorsky as Harlan
Leslie Carlson as Barry Convex
Jack Creley as Dr. Brian O’Blivion
Lynne Gorman as Masha
Director: David Cronenberg

As the president of a trashy TV channel, Max Renn (James Woods) is desperate for new programming to attract viewers. When he happens upon “Videodrome,” a TV show dedicated to gratuitous torture and punishment, Max sees a potential hit and broadcasts the show on his channel. However, after his girlfriend (Deborah Harry) auditions for the show and never returns, Max investigates the truth behind Videodrome and discovers that the graphic violence may not be as fake as he thought.

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I’ve heard of Videodrome as a horror film directed by David Cronenberg and starring James Woods, it was meant to be something of a cult classic, but I had no idea what to expect from it going in. It turned out to be among the strangest movie watching experiences I’ve had, and I actually ended up loving it quite a lot.

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Videodrome was very much ahead of its time, in fact I can see it being inaccessible to some people. It’s really one of those movies that you will need to watch for yourself and determine what it is. This is especially considering that the lead character is a bit of an unreliable narrator and you can’t tell for sure whether what he (and by extension us) is seeing is real or not, which I guess was very much intentional. From what I can tell, Videodrome is a commentary about our desensitization to sex and violence through the media, as well as the power of media on the whole, especially with the rise of television at that time. Now the movie is very much set in a VHS era (in the 80s) but if you substituted television with the internet today, the message would still remain the same, and remain just as relevant if not more so. As a movie, it was a uniquely disturbing and fascinating experience for sure. I will say that I wasn’t certain about what was happening 100% of the time (again probably intentional), but I was going along with whatever was happening. As that, it really is best if you go into this movie and experience the strangeness for yourself without knowing too much beforehand. Cronenberg created such an uneasy and tense atmosphere that only grows the more you watch. The movie is 90 minutes long and for every minute you are invested in what is happening.

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James Woods does very well in the lead role of Max Renn. Despite his character being rather morally dubious, he does have a human aspect that evokes enough sympathy in the audience to make him watchable enough. Additionally, other actors in the cast like Debbie Harry and Sonja Smits also do well on their parts.

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David Cronenberg really shows off the best of his talents with Videodrome. Much of the uneasy feeling throughout the movie is due to his direction, there’s just a feeling of wrongness throughout, even when there’s not currently something weird or disturbing happening on screen. It’s very surreal, and claustrophobic at times, and helps to build up this uneasy atmosphere. The editing also contributes to this. Cronenberg has done lots of body horror in the past, and he does it again here with Videodrome to some great effect. There are some truly impressive and gruesome body effects which still hold up over 3 decades later. However it’s not just the body effects, there’s some effects that are meant to represent hallucinations and they do very well in making you question whether what’s happening on screen is real or not. Howard Shore’s score also fit perfectly with the movie, giving it even more eerie and uneasy vibe.

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Videodrome is a very weird movie for sure but it’s great, it’s directed incredibly, I was invested throughout, and it was such a uneasy and incredible experience. I actually want to get around to rewatching it sometime, because I feel like I’d get even more out of it on repeat viewings. While there’s many more of his movies that I have left to see, at the moment I’d say that this is one of David Cronenberg’s best, if not the best I’ve seen from him so far.

Casino (1995) Review

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Casino

Time: 178 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein
Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna
Joe Pesci as Nicky Sontoro
James Woods as Lester Diamond
Don Rickles as Billy Sherbert
Director: Martin Scorsese

Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) are mobsters, who move to Las Vegas to make their mark, live and work in this paradoxical world. Seen through their eyes, each as a foil to the other, the details of mob involvement in the casinos of the 1970’s and ’80’s are revealed. Ace is the operator of the Tangiers casino, while Nicky is his boyhood friend and tough strongman, robbing and shaking down the locals. However, they each have a tragic flaw-Ace falls in love with a hustler, Ginger (Sharon Stone), and Nicky falls into an ever-deepening spiral of drugs and violence. This movie is based on some true events.

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A lot of movie buffs have movies that changed their viewpoint of film just being entertainment, to the idea that film is an art form. In my case, Casino is that film. It is wonderfully shot, brilliantly acted and has a style that really gets me interested in the type of world the characters are in. It unfortunately often gets overshadowed by the more well-known Goodfellas, a film that it is very similar to. Once again, Martin Scorsese has again created a masterpiece that has made a significant impact on me and many others as Casino presents the best that film has to offer.

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From the start, Casino had my attention and I couldn’t stop watching despite the movie being nearly 3 hours long. The narration is mostly done by Ace and Nicky and we really learn about how they thought, what they thought of and how things in Las Vegas worked. Regarding the characters in this movie, I didn’t feel any empathy or any kind connection to them, where as some people may be able to feel that in Goodfellas to some of the characters (even when they aren’t glorified) – this isn’t a negative; it is just something I have noticed. What is a positive is; is that by the end I felt that I learnt more about the characters in this movie more than Goodfellas. The film actually felt darker than Goodfellas, especially with the violence. Casino’s violence was much more brutal and unflinching than Goodfellas’s, especially a scene near the end that involves baseball bats in a cornfield. Overall, it doesn’t matter what movie you see first; they are both brilliant films in their own right.

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Robert De Niro is really good as always, and really fills his role here as Ace Rothstein, who is in a high position, running the casino. Joe Pesci is good here, playing someone who is quite a lot like his character in Goodfellas, a short tempered and violent person; however I actually feel that his performance here has more depth. It would be a crime to overlook Sharon Stone’s performance which would lead to the film’s only Oscar nomination. She plays her role extremely well and is on par with De Niro and Pesci. Other actors like James Woods and Don Rickles are good as well. Everyone in this movie is great but those three main actors stole every scene they were in.

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This being a Scorsese movie, is filled with a lot of energy, as most of his films are; the style was the icing on the cake that drew me into the story more, which was very similar to Goodfellas. The cinematography is great as always and has great music that fits in with the time period and the location of Las Vegas.

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Maybe it was the fact that I saw Casino before Goodfellas but this movie has made a bigger impact on me. Whatever you feel about how it holds up against Goodfellas, Casino deserves to be judged on its own. It certainly isn’t for everyone (An example being the cornfield scene) but overall, this is one of my favourite movies of all time and I owe a lot to it.