We’re going to try and different approach this week to the DVD Shopping Bag. Rarely do I let my other duties infringe on this column. What the DVD Shopping Bag provides is a look at one title or perhaps a new released box set. I’ll provide a review, insight, or a complaint about said title and then provide you a list of weekly releases. It was my first job here at Mania and in the 5 plus years of working for the site, this column has rewarded me with a lot of different opportunities. It allowed me to interview the co-director and co-writer of Branded, arriving today on DVD and Blu-ray.
Attending the likes of Comic Con in San Diego have given me a lot of great stories and incredible opportunities. Last year at Comic Con I was given the chance to sit and chat, exclusively, with one of the creators of Branded, Jamie Bradshaw. I really knew very little about the film. It is one of the downsides to walking into a room for an interview and having only seen the trailer. New talent or property like Mr. Bradshaw and Branded makes it even tougher. Check out my interview here on Mania.com.
This and a few other trailers like it are all I knew about Branded.
Now, Mr. Bradshaw and I talked about the immediate comparisons to Blade Runner and, more importantly, They Live. I can assure you that this film is neither of those two properties. I can also assure you that the trailer is about one fourth of the movie I saw.
I guess I’m bringing up my interview here in the DVD Shopping Bag because I feel that after talking to Mr. Bradshaw and watching the trailer, I was going to see a different type of movie. It’s one thing to sit down and watch a movie cold and write a review. It is another thing to shake a director’s hand, chat about the film, and then be blind sided by what I saw.
He didn’t sell me on this being the end-all of the genre, nor did he convince me that he and co-creator Alexander Doulerain were creating the next Star Wars. What he did sell me on were the two artists that were trying to explore the ideas of marketing and branding and that every penny was going to be in front of the camera and not in someone’s pocket. So, how did they do?
Branded is a large story that takes place on a grand stage. Misha (Ed Stoppard) is recruited by Bob (Jeffrey Tambor), an agent for the U.S. government, to infiltrate the new Russian business market. It is a new age of democracy and consumerism and the U.S. wants to keep track of what’s going on. Misha is a very successful advertising executive, but his film career is about to go belly up. Thankfully, he runs into Bob’s niece, Abby (Leelee Sobieski), and not only does he figure out a way to sell his film, but falls for her as well.
Misha and Abby decide to partner on more than just love and develop a new reality show where a heavy set woman will be turned into the world’s idea of beautiful. Unbeknownst to Misha and Abby, all the world’s major fast food brands are about to make a radical change in their slumping sales.
A mystic Marketing Guru (played by Max von Sydow) convinces the fast food brands that what they need to do is make the world think that “fat is the new fabulous”. His plans begin with making a martyr out of Abby and Misha’s reality show contestant. There was no mention of alien beings or dark magic controlling everyone and everything. Max von Sydow’s character is a bit strange, but nothing out of the ordinary. Any conspiracy theorist will enjoy the film up to this point. It doesn’t sound bizarre or extreme. In fact, you believe that it could happen.
The reality show contestant pleads on camera to get out of the surgery. They convince her that she will be fine. After her surgery, she goes into a coma. The Marketing Guru then puts his plan into full effect and the world suddenly wants to embrace being fat and beautiful. Again, no strange aliens or evil sorcerers taking over. Just big business and Misha and Abby are now wanted for questioning.
This is where the film derails and really comes off the track. Misha and Abby separate and Misha goes into hiding. He becomes a farmer and leaves the world of marketing behind. However, he has visions of what he should do next and puts them into effect. Misha conducts a cleansing ritual (think The Wicker Man) and is now able to see what marketing has done to people. If only that would have transpired in the film as fast as you just read it. Subplots and tangents fill up over an hour of the film. We bounce around different cities and 5 years until Abby reveals to Misha she is now a millionaire and has a fat son named Robert who is Misha’s.
The film is packed with bizarre voice overs that were better used in film school 101. They help bring the audience up to speed and jump any and all story development that should happen on screen. When the big freaky marketing brand monsters do show up, their payoff is strange and almost out of place. This really wasn’t a Sci-Fi film or anything related to the genre. It simply was a story about a man who saw behind the curtain and wanted to fix what was wrong with the world. Too bad that it was bloated and packed with so much Sci-Fi sugar that it was as unrewarding as the fast food brands it criticized.
TOP 5 PICKS OF THE WEEK:
Best Years of Our Lives
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray
Pride of the Yankees
Black Cobra/Big Fight, The
ACTION / ADVENTURE / KUNG FU/ THRILLERS / WESTERNS
Black Cobra/Big Fight, The Starring Fred Williamson
Branded [Blu-ray] Starring John Laskowski and Andrey Kaykov
Branded Starring John Laskowski and Andrey Kaykov
Counterpunch Starring Danny Trejo, Steven Bauer, Alvaro Orlando and Oscar Torre
Jackie Chan: Crime Story / The Protector [Blu-ray] Starring Jackie Chan
Lightning Bug [Blu-ray] Starring Bret Harrison, Laura Prepon, Ashley Laurence and Kevin Gage
Saints & Soldiers 2 Airborne Creed [Blu-ray]
Shaolin Deadly Kicks/Chase Step By Step Starring Ma Chueng, Wong Goon Hung Dorian Tan
Shaolin Temple/Four Robbers Starring Sung Gam Loi, Sek Hon Shu Feng
Taken 2 [Blu-ray] Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen and Leland Orser
Taken 2 Starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen and Leland Orser
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] Starring Jamie Marchi, Monica Rial and Christopher R. Sabat
Persona 4: Collection 2 [Blu-ray]
Persona 4: Collection 2
Best Years of Our Lives Starring Dana Andrews and Fredric March
Bishop's Wife Starring David Niven and Cary Grant
Gentleman's Agreement [Blu-ray] Starring John Garfield and Gregory Peck
Guys & Dolls Starring Roddy McDowall, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons
How Green Was My Valley [Blu-ray] Starring Roddy McDowall, Walter Pidgeon and Donald Crisp
Pride of the Yankees Starring Babe Ruth, Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan
Wild River [Blu-ray] Starring Albert Salmi, Montgomery Clift, Jay C. Flippen
Wuthering Heights Starring David Niven, Laurence Olivier and Donald Crisp
COMEDY AND LOVE Mania Style
30 Nights of Paranormal Activity With the Devil Starring French Stewart, Danny Woodburn and Flip Schultz
Sleeper [Blu-ray] Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck and Mary Gregory
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring Peter Lorre
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Criterion Collection) Starring Peter Lorre
The Tin Drum (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring David Bennent and Mario Adorf
The Tin Drum (Criterion Collection) Starring David Bennent and Mario Adorf
Attack of the Werewolves [Blu-ray] Starring Carlos Areces and Luis Zahera
The Possession [DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet] Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedwick
The Possession [Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UltraViolet] Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedwick
Reel Evil Starring Jessica Morris, Jim Tavare, Kaiwi Lyman and Jeffrey Adler
Wedding Day Starring David Koechner, C. Thomas Howell, Stephanie Drapeau
Bat Masterson: Best of Season One Volume Two Starring Gene Barry, Bill Baldwin and Allison Hayes
Being Human: Season 4 Starring Lenora Crichlow, Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner
Being Human: Season 4 [Blu-ray] Starring Lenora Crichlow, Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner
Merlin: The Complete Fourth Season Starring Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath and Angel Coulby
Perry Mason: The Eighth Season, Vol. 2 Starring Raymond Burr, Ray Collins, William Hooper
Power Rangers Samurai: A Team Divided Vol. 3 Starring Alex Heartman, Erika Fong, Hector David Jr.
Power Rangers Super Samurai: Rise of Bullzooka Vol. 3 Starring Alex Heartman, Erika Fong, Hector David Jr.
Waking the Dead: Complete Season Seven Starring Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston, Wil Johnson and Tara Fitzgerald
Notebook: Ultimate Collector's Edition [Blu-ray] Starring Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner