Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

This late nineties film, directed by the incredible mind of Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Brazil), was nothing short of fantastic. It is pretty hard to describe exactly what happened – and I do believe that was Gilliam’s point. It’s a rambling, jolting experience.

What I loved about the film is twofold: I loved Johnny Depp’s performance. This is before Pirates of the Caribbean, but you can see where he began the character. That being said, Depp’s character in this film is weirder than Capt. Jack because well, he’s a drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson running through L.A. with his lawyer (Benicio Del Toro) where they do unknown levels of nearly every drug on the planet. Which is, apparently, nearly autobiographical. Sweet. There isn’t a moment where Depp doesn’t have a cigarette in his mouth – even when a rag is covering it (either for huffing ether or for covering against dust).

The cinematography is the other thing I absolutely adore about this flick. The scenes are consistently jam-packed with stuff – the screen is hardly surrounded by nothingness. The camera is almost consistently on an angle, making everything else seem warped. I suppose  I should say that I was a little bit under the influence while watching (honestly, merely tipsy) and I am unsure if the cinematography or my slight inebriation helped in seeing what the characters saw. I mean, I felt as if I was on their “trip” – everything was so brilliantly colored and crazily shot that it felt like an acid trip. I’m going to give it to the cinematographer.

All in all, the film surprised me with how accessible it was. Despite the length (just over 2 hours), much of the film is accessible in the sense that no one expects it to make sense. With that in mind, the audience is allowed to drift in here and there and not be upset if something is not understood – everyone else is in the same boat.

Terry Gilliam rarely makes a film that I do not thoroughly enjoy and this is no exception. Highly recommended.


The Last Starfighter (1984)

This campy sci-fi adventure doesn’t seem like something that would belong on an “One Hundred Important Films” list, however it was one of those movies that many of my friends were surprised that I hadn’t even heard of. Exclamations of “You didn’t have a childhood!” and “We are watching this immediately!” were yelled in outrage as one of them pulled it out of his huge CD wallet. It was next to the original Star Wars trilogy.

“Okay, okay – put it on!” I said as we celebrated our day off from school.

I have to say, there were many times when the special effects made me cringe. I mean, it was made after the first Star Wars movie and George Lucas had nearly no budget – but he still made it look good (despite his best efforts to systematically destroy the originals after he touched the CGI button too many times – but that’s an entirely different argument).

The Last Starfighter tells the story of a young man, Alex, who lives in a trailer park and spends his days playing his favorite arcade game “Starfighter”. His girlfriend, who also lives in the trailer park, is afraid to leave despite Alex’s assertions that everything will be alright once he figures out a way to leave. He beats the high score on the machine – which everyone attends as if he just performed open heart surgery and saved a child’s life – and is recruited later that night by a man named Centauri who tells him he created the games. Before he knows it, he is whisked away to another world where open war is upon them and he is recruited to the Starfighter fleet to save an alien planet.

Play any arcade game and become a hero!

It’s the absolute dream of any video-game loving kid. I mean, I always wanted an audience when I beat Final Fantasy IX for the first time! So I understand the appeal of the film to people like, say, my friends. They spend hours playing Pokemon tourneys, play Risk-like board games, and hours of video games. Now, that’s not to say that I am not one of them – I have put my time into many an RPG and am currently in the middle of Half-Life. But the premise is a bit…

No. Okay! I loved it! It was so lame but it was soooo awesome. It is enjoyably bad – but not so bad as to make you want to throw things. The story was well told and fun. It isn’t anything to really make you think, but sometimes having a movie like that is important.

Worth it? If you like feel-good adventure films – you are in.