on February 1, 2013
This film is a little gem, and it's rather sad that the only people seeing it are those who have been duped by the trailer into thinking it's some kind of science fiction/horror film. In fact, it's spiritually allied with 'Idiocracy' and plot-wise pitched about midway between 'They Live' and 'How To Get Ahead In Advertising' (more the latter than the former), though it has more in common stylistically with Terry Gilliam and Jean Pierre Jeunet than it does John Carpenter. It may not be perfect, but it certainly doesn't deserve the disappointed flak its ad campaign is drawing from those duped by the trailer into expecting a fairly cheesy looking alien invasion flick with nothing whatsoever on its mind.
Luckily, this movie about the evils of advertising will find its audience despite its evil advertising, given a bit of time and word of mouth. I suspect the adverse reaction it's getting may even strengthen its reputation in the long run by making its intended audience more amenable than it might have been if the action movie fans' reviews had been good.
So maybe it's actually the perfect strategy if what you're trying to create is a cult for your film, and the marketing team actually took some cockeyed notice of what the film was about after all...
on February 17, 2013
This movie seems to be an indictment of mass consumerism with introspective insights into the loss of one's individuality. It also explores the dangers of being too lazy when it comes to not questioning the propaganda that we come in contact with every day via television, radio and other forms of media.
Corporate advertising is a multi-million dollar industry. CEOs of major corporations wouldn't be willing to spend millions of dollars for television advertising if they didn't think that such advertising could be used to sway opinion and manipulate the behavior of millions of people.
This movie goes beyond saying that advertising executives are sleazy, and goes on to show advertising executives breaking the law and putting people's health at risk in order to market their products and bring in bigger and bigger profits.
This is not a fun movie, although I rather enjoyed the (perhaps unconscious) symbolism as it showed corporate avatars taking the place of the old pagan gods. Instead of worshipping Odin and Zeus and Ra and Apollo, people now worship Coke and Pepsi and McDonalds and Apple.
Despite the social messages (which I rather agreed with) I found the movie to be difficult to enjoy. It's a cerebral message, and a message worth teaching, but it's certainly not an enjoyable movie to watch.
on May 30, 2013
To say that "Branded" is a weird film is understatement. I have seen so many cult movies before, and so many strange sci-fi films, too, including such classics as "Matango" ("Attack of the Mushroom People"), but not like "Branded." This is not a compliment, of course. Well, my point is, I have never seen so much energy put into something like this, something that contains great Max von Sydow, and that doesn't make sense at all.
Set in today's Moscow, the story of "Branded" starts with a young Russian marketing executive Misha (Ed Stoppard) hired for a reality TV show. Misha meets an American Abby (Leelee Sobieski) and has a relationship with her. Later Misha acquires special powers to see "marketing schemes" in their true form ... they are monsters.
I am not kidding, and the film (also known as "The Mad Cow" and "Moscow 2017") tackles this social issue so earnestly that it plays like a dead serious drama. Not a single drop of wit is injected. This is not a John Carpenter classic "They Live." You may see CG creatures flying in the sky, but it is no fun watching them.
"Branded" is less like watching a movie than listening to a lecture. And the lecture is boring, offering no insight into the subject matter it deals with.
on May 11, 2013
So let's start with what is good: Leelee Sobieski and Jeffrey Tambor are doing a great job. Both are utterly believable in their roles in a world that is ... well ... insane, illogical and stupid. Also, the central message that marketing through branding and advertisement rules our lives and should be stopped is a good point, which runs oddly parallel to what we now have in Australia (and I gather other parts of the world) where cigarettes are no longer displayed and the packaging is "plain".
... and really, that is it. The movie is ~105 minutes and overall is not too badly paced, though arguably pacing is not an issue because as you are watching there are so many questions on your mind as to what the director was thinking, how this makes sense, or why Tambor and Sobieski aren't in good movies. Still there is enough happening on screen that there is a constant stream of "what is going on?" coming at you.
So what is this about: well, Stoppard plays Misha who was struck by lightning and thus was foretold to have an interesting life. He has a natural knack for marketing and eventually becomes successful at it. And here is the first thing that doesn't make sense, making me think either I missed something, or it's not explained. Given the rest of the movie, I'm thinking that it was not explained. Misha is winning awards but is getting turned down for pitches even though he is clearly busy working on stuff. I have no idea where that was supposed to go, I don't think it had any impact and maybe it was the biggest red herring ever. Maybe it's a metaphor about misdirection, which would take this movie to a meta level few would attempt and if that's what they did on purpose then well done.
Anyway, out of this comes that he produces with Sobieski's character a reality TV show about a girl who will have plastic surgery to become thin and thus popular etc. The entire thing is a plot engineered to result in outrage which eventually is supposed to change the world's body image ideal. Said girl ends up in a coma, whilst around the world a model dies from anorexia. These two events thus cause everyone to want to be fat within six years. Although this marketing stunt is done in Russia (where the movie is set) because it could not work in the first world, it seems to have fairly far reaching effects though ... it isn't made clear if this appearance is just that. There is scene near the end where it is implied that the US were drawn in too, but again it isn't really that clear. The strings in this are pulled by Von Sydow's character, who eventually is revealed as Misha's arch nemesis through their shared bond of lighting, and some other factors. This isn't a spoiler, because he is actually introduced as the villain.
Because of girl going into comma and some subtle media manipulation a la "Yes Prime Minister" (Which again is not explained) Misha and Abby (Sobieski) are exiled and split up. That doesn't matter though because they eventually meet again after Misha has become a cowboy and incidentally Abby has a son from Misha. Misha does something with a cow (I was tuning out at this point but the narrator indicated it was significant so I remember that there was a special red cow) and when he goes back to civilisation with Abby he starts seeing that brands are feeding (??) of people. This parasitic ... "relationship" is visualised with dreadful CG which is so bad that one can only assume the directors thought this would make a statement. (It really is that bad and messy).
Meanwhile, Abby thinks Misha is going insane, largely because he is going for the whole violent bipolar thing where he is apologetic right before, during and after slamming Abby into the ground, nevermind that what he's talking about is metaphysical while to him it is reality. From here though (due to the loss) he realises what he must do to right the wrongs of the world, or at least marketing, and thus works towards the destruction of all branding. And to do this he resorts to the exact sales pitch Von Sydow used in his Faustian pitch. At this point there is less than 30 minutes of film left, and this is also where the trailer's make it look really awesome.
Remember, how I said that the misdirection about Misha's success was possibly a statement? This is roughly where it syncs up again, because the trick to marketing the movie is making out is that say there is a reality show about becoming thin through surgery, but what that's really about is selling fast food. Or brands are feeding of you but really that's bad for you because ... advertising was used to get you interested in the first place.
So, it does make you think, though I really don't think that it is making you think along the right lines: it's not talking about how advertisers work, but rather how they could work if they were completely without morals and on LSD, while the world itself subscribes to the rules of Wonderland from Through the Looking Glass. And that's exactly what's going on, everyone (except Von Sydow who arguably is just evil) is off their medication and causality is suspended. The people follow the logic of "reality TV about weightloss through plastic surgery is outrageous" therefore "I will gorge myself on fast food". And although there is a little more to it, the causation and logic is still just as absent.
Just in closing, the reason I watched the movie is because I saw a review on the Escapist which said it was the worst movie of 2000something, but at the same time the footage being shown (from the trailer) looked pretty good (this is where the "good" CG is happening). So I expected bad, and I almost gave up, but I wanted to know where this was going to go, because just past half way I did not foresee where this could possibly go. Now that I've seen it I'm still struggling. Someone mentioned that this this was like "Idiocracy". It is not: Idiocracy makes a statement about what an extrapolation of extremes in our current society might mean for the future, and then asks the viewer to consider this further. It takes stupidity from today which anyone can see in our world and amplifies it to a national / global scale, but acknowledges that this is a (d)evolution. Branded is a story of enlightenment where a stupid person in an insane world causes the salvation of the world by using evil techniques (even for marketing) for good. It doesn't ask the audience anything, but rather preaches and ironically does it so badly and unconvincing. It's akin to a religious leader who practices all the things he preaches against, and in his preaching equates good and evil not with action but intention of those involved.
And for those who think this might just be art house, and no-one got it: Really, that's not it, the movie is stupid... Arguably so stupid you might have to see it to believe it, I know I didn't think it was going to get quite this bad. Like I said, I kept watching because I wanted to know where they'd go, and I never would have seen that coming (bits of it sure, but ...). That said, this isn't a complete train wreck, it isn't so bad it's good, it remains dreadfully bad. What it is, is this: so stupid it's almost interesting, if the experience wasn't so useless. That said, this is the kind of movie you can probably use to great effect if you got the right assignment question (maybe something along the lines of "what drug induced reasoning might be comparable to").
Just thinking over this some more, there are two things I wanted to point out: first, this movie makes Plan 9 From Outer Space seem coherent and sensical. Second, there are typos in the forced subtitles for the Russian dialog.
on April 20, 2013
This movie is a very jumbled collection of strange methods/techniques and despite having at least one strong actor (Max von Sydow) it can't overcome the extremely poor execution.
The premise could have been used to so much better effect, but perhaps it would have encountered such tremendous legal resistance by corporate interests in the USA it had to both be nearly comical (in a bad way) and staged in a foreign country.
Its' not the 'worst movie ever' as I think that is a category into which several have fallen, however; This is definitely on the low-end of the spectrum in terms of viewer enjoyment, execution of premise, etc.
It isnt 'B' movie grade enough to make it into something like space theater 3000 where you are watching it for pure silly/kitsch/camp value.
on January 21, 2013
I bought this film from looking at the cover. I expected a low budget Asylum/SyFy film, one I could sit and laugh at the terrible acting and bad special effects. Instead what I obtained was very ingenious film that unfortunately sacrificed entertainment in order to make a statement. The first half of the movie is long in setting up for the second half.
It appears a symbolic divine heavenly cow in Taurus (minus the Pleiades) creates people from time to time with great insight to shape the human race. This cow also narrates in voice that sounds like Cate Blanchett talking to Frodo because the writers weren't clever enough to create a good scene to relate what was spoken. Narration as constant filler is substandard writing.
Misha (Ed Stoppard), a Russian ad man has been selected as those once in a generation visionaries to lead mankind. As an ad man he meets Abby (Leelee Sobieski) and they produce a show together. However, there are evil forces out there against them: a burger man (Max von Sydow) with a diabolical marketing campaign that will make "fat women popular." Kiss me Mama June. Eventually Misha has a divine cow planned epiphany and becomes a Roddy Piper ("They Live") without the glasses to give us the brief sci-fi moments.
The film is an over statement on how the world is shaped by advertising and propaganda campaigns. This is hardly new material, although the culprits presented are mainly the fast food and soft drink industries. If you like the "turn off your TV" campaigns, you might want to turn yours on to watch this film.
Good concept, but the execution lacked entertainment value.
Parental Guide: F-bomb, clothed sex, male rear nudity (Ed Stoppard or double). Leelee in bra, brief groping.
on February 2, 2013
I just watched this movie and enjoyed it so much I decided to get on Amazon to review it (which is an EXTREMELY rare thing). I'm quite shocked after getting on here to see how low the reviews are from other people. I think that may be due to a miss "branding" (pun not really intended, but it is a good one!) of the movie oddly enough. I don't think they marketed this movie correctly. Which is extremely odd considering the whole movie is about marketing.
Maybe people don't like it because it's more informative than it is entertaining at times. It's not really a movie for shallow thinkers. If you're looking for a science-fiction thriller or shoot em up type movie this is not the movie for you. Perhaps another reason people don't like it is because the cover of the movie makes it appear as though it's a science fiction or war movie and it's not. It's also NOT A FAMILY MOVIE. Kids won't understand it or like it. If your kid watches it and likes it, then you probably have a child prodigy on your hands, lol. I will just have to say if you watch it with an open mind you will most likely like it.
This is one of those rare movies that humanity is better for having it. I don't know if other people don't understand it or what, but this movie is a rare treasure. It gives you a true idea of how wars between corporations are waged. I don't think anyone could watch this movie and not feel like they are more knowledgeable afterwards. If they do, then maybe they weren't bright enough to comprehend it. It's one of those movies that I'm surprised they allowed it to be released. It does drag at first and maybe that's where a lot of people give up, but hang in there it's well worth it if you are capable of deeper thinking than most people.