Bullet Head

I’ve been careful to go in chronological order here, but I thought it might be nice to mix things up and review something that’s being released next week on BluRay/DVD (and is already available in digital markets, such as iTunes).

Thanks to my friend Shirley Ann for encouraging me to do so.

Starring: Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, Rory Culkin, Antonio Banderas, and Han Solo as “DeNiro” (the dog).

Written and directed by: Paul Solet

Rated: R

Release: December 8, 2017 (U.S.)

Overall score: 6/10

Brody score: 7/10

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The Pianist

We’re here, guys! We’ve finally reached The Pianist!

Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Ed Stoppard, Jessica Kate Myer, Julia Rayner, Daniel Caltagirone, Andrzej Blumenfeld,¬†Valentine Pelka, Ruth Platt, Ronan Vibert, Andrew Tiernan…

Written by: Wladyslaw Szpilman (memoir), Ronald Harwood (adapted screenplay)

Directed by: Roman Polanski

Rated: R

Release: March 28, 2003 (U.S.)

Overall score: 9.5/10

Brody performance: 10/10

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Dummy

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DUMMY, Adrien Brody, Vera Farmiga, 2002, (c) Artisan Entertainment

 

Starring: Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Vera Farmiga, Illeana Douglas, Jessica Walter, Ron Liebman, Jared Harris, Mirabella Pisani

Written and directed by: Greg Pritikin

Rated: R (pretty much because of Fangora’s vocabulary)

Release: February, 2002 (U.S.)

Overall score: 7/10

Brody performance: 9/10

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Love the Hard Way

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Why does this publicity photo make this movie seem like it’s a romantic comedy, or something? ūüėČ

Starring: Adrien Brody, Charlotte Ayanna, Jon Seda, August Diehl, Pam Grier, Liza Jessie Peterson, Elizabeth Regen, and Katherine Moennig

Written by: Wang Shuo (source material), Peter Sehr and Marie Noelle (screenplay)

Directed by: Peter Sehr

Rated: R

Release: August 8, 2001 (Locarno Film Festival)

Overall score: 7/10

Brody performance score: 9/10

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Liberty Heights

Cast:¬†Ben Foster, Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth, Joe Mantegna, Frania Rubinek, Rebekah Johnson (aka Jordan), James Pickens Jr.,¬†David Krumholtz, Carolyn Murphy, Justin Chambers, Orlando Jones, Anthony Anderson, Richard Kline,¬†Vincent Guastaferro, Evan Neumann, Kevin Sussman, Shane West…

Written by: Barry Levinson

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Rated: R (though it seems like a PG-13 film)

Released: December 31, 1999 (U.S.)

Overall score: 6/10 (just being nitpicky)

Brody performance: 5/10

What I Didn’t Like

Adrien’s character, Sylvan “Van” Kurtzman straddles the line between romantic and creepy in dealing with a crush he’s formed on a beautiful blonde (model Carolyn Murphy in her only film role so far). He first saw her on Halloween, dressed as a fairy princess (he decides she’s Cinderella, but that’s debatable). Van broke the ice by asking if the magic wand she was holding granted wishes, which led to a flirty conversation culminating in a small kiss. Van is whisked away by his friends before he can get the mystery lady’s name, or any other information.

I can relate to the excitement of meeting a new person and forming an attachment — I think we all can. But Van goes a little overboard: questioning everyone who might possibly know who she is, aimlessly driving around the WASP part of town trying to find her, interrupting friends in crisis to talk about her… it wears thin at times. It’s not as though he does a bad job in this film (in fact, there are several scenes that are brilliant — such as the courtroom scene), it’s just that part of the story that I find irksome. Overall, though Van is a likeable character.

It does help to take into account that the 1950s are being depicted, here. It wasn’t exactly the most PC time in male-female relations. A scene where young men discuss Spanish Fly is a reminder of this.

What I Enjoyed

The main story is arguably Ben Kurtzman (an excellent Ben Foster) falling for one of his newly-integrated high school’s first black students, Sylvia (a charming Rebekah Johnson). Much to the dismay of both sets of parents. Both actors do an impressive job here. Sylvia is both shy and no-nonsense at the same time, which is a really good type of female character to see. Ben is what you would call sheltered (he basically grew up in a bubble where everyone was Jewish), so there’s a lot Sylvia teaches him about how “the other kind” lives. Both Ben and Sylvia are highly intelligent, and respectful of each other. It’s a lovely relationship.

Another relationship I really enjoyed was the one between Ada (Bebe Neuwirth) and Nate (Joe Mantegna) Kurtzman (Ben and Van’s parents). They are clearly still very much in love after many years together and have worked hard to create their life together. I loved that Nate is open with Ada about how he makes his living (running numbers and operating a burlesque house) – there’s no secret-keeping, no lying about whereabouts, no “don’t ask me about my business.” Ada and Nate are respectful and supportive of one another. There is none of the bickering and belittling we see so often in stories of couples who have been married a long time. It’s very refreshing.

Generally…

Liberty Heights is an enjoyable step into the past. Many subjects are tackled in this story: love, friendship, family, education, race relations, antisemitism, sexual politics, gambling, kidnapping… even music and comedians. It covers quite the spectrum, while still maintaining its focus. Everything is seen through the eyes of this family. Everything unfolds as it relates to their lives. It’s a wonderful approach to storytelling and I really enjoyed it.

Summer of Sam

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Cast: John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvino, Adrien Brody, Jennifer Esposito, Michael Rispoli, Ken Garito, Brian Tarantina, Michael Badalucco, Patti LuPone, Bebe Neuwirth, Ben Gazarra, Anthony LaPaglia, Michael Imperioli, Spike Lee… and more.

Written by: Spike Lee, Michael Imperioli, Victor Colicchio

Directed by: Spike Lee

Rated: R

Released: July 2, 1999

Overall score: 6/10

Brody performance: 7/10

An aside:

This was a particularly life changing project for Adrien Brody. During a fight scene near the close of the movie, his nose was broken for real. And the moment stayed in the film! You can actually see it happen. It’s quite upsetting, actually. I thought it was my imagination that the moment was left in, until I heard Adrien say so in an interview.

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Oxygen

Cast: Maura Tierney, Adrien Brody, Terry Kinney, Laila Robins, James Naughton, Paul Calderon, Dylan Baker, Frankie Faison, Michael Henderson…

Writer/Director: Richard Shepard

Released: November 12, 1999

Overall score: 6/10
Brody score: 7/10
Commentary track score: 9/10 (more about that below)

A side note

I want to start off this post by recommending that if you get your hands on a DVD of Oxygen, you listen to the commentary track. It features writer/director Richard Shepard, along with the movie’s stars: Maura Tierney and Adrien Brody. It is so entertaining. Really. Funny in parts, informative in parts, and deliciously awkward in parts. It’s a must hear.

A Familiar Feeling

Oxygen is what you might call “Silence of the Lambs Light,” with Adrien’s character getting into a seasoned police officer’s psyche almost as adeptly as Dr. Hannibal Lecter would. There is a sense of urgency in both films that drives these otherwise guarded women to allow these men (Lecter and “Harry,” respectively) in. To permit themselves to think like a monster for the good of the case. The story lines of the two films aren’t much alike at all, it’s the psychological aspect I find comparable.

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