12 Monkeys Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam is a creative film genius. Sure, that term gets thrown around far too often and attributed to many who are undeserving, but Gilliam is deserving. Proof? Try Brazil, Time Bandits, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and, yes, 12 Monkeys. Even his spectacular failures are engaging (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen). Yet Gilliam has one of the worst (undeserved) reputations in film, basically because he's an artist first, politician, well, way down the line. True, his battle with Universal to release his cut of Brazil didn't make him any friends (although it was the right decision) and Munchausen is an albatross that still hangs from his neck, but all those who see him as a creative dreamer (see Lost in La Mancha) whose amazingly artistic films never make "real" money, check this: 12 Monkeys made over 160 million dollars. Of course, there's good reason: the film had major star power (Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe and Bruce Willis). But it isn't a Hollywood blockbuster content-wise. In the extras and commentary, Gilliam constantly refers to 12 Monkeys as being a European film (meaning it's too smart to have come from America) and is in shock that he was allowed to make the movie, which stars Willis as a possibly insane man who believes he's come back to the past to help find a cure for a disease that will virtually destroy humankind in the near future. While the film is littered with trademark Gilliam visual signatures (the weird tilted shots, the complete absurdity of many situations, the odd midget), it may be one of his least "Gilliam" films (which he admits in the engaging and thorough commentary with producer Charles Roven). Instead, Monkeys is driven by a remarkable turn by Bruce Willis as the time-travelling/insane Cole and the excellent eccentricities of Brad Pitt. Of course, to make the film he wanted and receive final cut, he had to trade a big budget, and throughout the impressive documentary The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of 12 Monkeys, the battle to do things quick and cheap conflicts with the "big budget" impression of the film and Gilliam's meticulous nature. The doc offers a number of fascinating insights into Gilliam and the film (including the director becoming lost in his film's plot machinations) and the painful screening/opinion poll process 12 Monkeys went through. Unsurprisingly, when initially screened in advance, people hated it; but Gilliam and crew held firm and the film was released with minor changes, proving the man right once again. And really, was Munchausen that bad? (Universal)