Film Review: The Faculty (1998)

Also known as: The Parasite (Japanese English title)
Release Date: December 25th, 1998
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Kevin Williamson, David Wechter, Bruce Kimmel
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Shawn Hatosy, Clea DuVall, Josh Hartnett, Laura Harris, Robert Patrick, Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Usher Raymond, Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart, Danny Masterson, Louis Black, Duane Martin, Daniel von Bargen

Dimension Films, Los Hooligans Productions, Miramax Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

“I’m not putting that hack drug up my nose – it’s so eighties!” – Stokely, “Aliens are taking over the earth. Weigh it!” – Zeke

I thought I had seen this film before and maybe I did but watching it now, it was all new to me. Granted, at the time when this was a current movie, I was dabbling in extracurricular substances. Angsty Gen-X teen shenanigans, am I right?

And I guess this film isn’t too different from my head space in the era in which this came out. I was dabbling in the party hard lifestyle and all it had to offer like most of the kids in this movie.

Anyway, this film had everyone in it. Seriously, this cast was loaded with talent to the point that it is pretty unbelievable when watching it today. In fact, I’m surprised this wasn’t a hit or didn’t get a much larger cult following. It kind of came and went but it also came out in a time when there were a lot of films like it.

I also didn’t know that this was a Robert Rodriguez film. But when this came out, I wouldn’t have really known who he was yet even though I had seen From Dusk Till Dawn and Desperado.

The story is pretty simple, an alien parasite is taking over the minds of people. Basically, it borrows heavily from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a lot of other similar stories. This takes place in a high school though and the aliens have pretty much taken control of most of the faculty and a lot of the students. As the film rolls on, a group of teens discovers what’s happening and they decide to stop the invasion.

This was a much better movie than I anticipated when I fired it up nearly twenty years after its release. I was surprised with how fun and nuts it was. There are some parts that don’t make a lot of sense, like the whole opening scene if you reflect on it after watching the rest of the movie. However, Robert Rodriguez gave it a certain spirit that made me think of one of his other films: Planet Terror. Now this wasn’t Planet Terror levels of insane but it was edgier and cooler than other films like it from the late ’90s.

This also had some really impressive special effects and visuals. The scene where the alien queen, in human form, is walking naked through the locker rooms and the shadows of her invisible intertwining tentacles cast shadows all over the room is so fucking cool. Seriously, I loved this moment in the film and it really legitimized the picture as something much better than its contemporaries.

The Faculty is a greater film than it needed to be and that is the mark of a great director. I feel like it was certainly held tightly under the studio thumb and that Rodriguez would have made something pretty insane if he made this later in his career but he was still able to put his unique stamp on it and turn out a film that was damn good.

The film also features the worst Josh Hartnett hairstyle ever captured on film.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Disturbing BehaviorTeaching Mrs. TingleUrban LegendIdle Hands and other late ’90s teen horror.

Film Review: Cooties (2014)

Release Date: January 18th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Written by: Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan
Music by: Kreng
Cast: Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Nasim Pedrad, Jorge Garcia

SpectreVision, Glacier Films, Lionsgate Premiere, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Nap time, motherfuckers.” – Wade

*Written in 2015.

If you ever wanted to see Dwight Schrute team up with Frodo Baggins and fight zombie children in an elementary school, then this movie is for you! For those who never thought about that scenario, it is still a pretty sweet film.

Cooties takes place over the course of a day. Elijah Wood plays a struggling writer who comes to the school for the first time as a substitute teacher. He immediately butts heads with Rainn Wilson, who is essentially Dwight Schrute as an elementary P.E. teacher with a great mustache.

Allison Pill, probably most known for her part in Goon, plays Wilson’s girlfriend and creates tension between Wood and Wilson’s characters.

The film kicks off pretty quickly, as a zombie-like affliction spreads throughout the school but only effects those who haven’t yet gone through puberty.

We get awesome scenes of these teachers murdering zombie children. It is pretty great for those of us who have ever had run-ins with smart ass kids.

While the story isn’t all that great and the film isn’t, by any means, a classic, it is still a good way to waste 90 minutes of your time. The movie is predictable, the humor is passable but all in all, this is a fun ride. And who doesn’t enjoy Rainn Wilson? Let alone, Rainn Wilson as a badass?

The film’s final sequence takes place in a Discovery Zone type of environment, where the adults and a few of the surviving kids traverse through the child-safe maze in an effort to get out alive.

I liked this movie. I don’t know if I will ever watch it again but it was certainly a good way to waste some time on a Saturday morning between breakfast and lunch.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Zombieland.

Film Review: Sin City (2005)

Also known as: Frank Miller’s Sin City
Release Date: March 28th, 2005 (Mann National Theater premiere)
Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Based on: Sin City by Frank Miller
Music by: John Debney, Graeme Revell, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Nick Offerman, Marley Shelton, Nick Stahl, Tommy Flanagan, Devon Aoki, Rick Gomez, Frank Miller (cameo), Robert Rodriguez (cameo)

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, Miramax, 124 Minutes, 147 Minutes (unrated recut)

Review:

“Most people think Marv is crazy. He just had the rotten luck of being born in the wrong century. He’d be right at home on some ancient battlefield swinging an axe into somebody’s face. Or in a Roman arena, taking his sword to other gladiators like him. They woulda tossed him girls like Nancy back then.” – Dwight

When Sin City came out, it was a bit of a phenomenon. Well, at least with fans of comic books and especially those who love the work of Frank Miller.

I haven’t watched this in a really long time and I wanted to revisit it after spending a lot of time delving into classic film-noir, which this picture takes some major visual cues from. Well, the original comic this was based on used a lot of noir visual flair, so it was only natural that this film adaptation followed suit.

As an overall cohesive story, the film doesn’t work that well. I get that it is a linked anthology with overlapping characters but it feels like it is just running all over the place. Frankly, this would work better as a television show where all of these characters could be better developed and jumping around with the narrative would just seem more organic.

This is still a cool movie with cool characters but sometimes they feel more like caricatures of pulp comic and noir archetypes. There isn’t really any time to get to know anyone beyond what’s on the immediate surface. Nancy and Hartigan are the only characters with any sort of meaningful backstory and even then, it is pretty skeletal and doesn’t have the meat it needs to really connect in an emotional way.

The film is highly stylized and while it looks cool, it almost works against it, as the grit and violence almost becomes too comic book-y. But this is supposed to be the comic stories coming to life and it represents that with its visual style. And I like the visual style but this is still a live action motion picture and it sort of forgets that.

I’m not saying it can’t have immense and incredible style but it needs to have a better balance between what would exist on a black and white comic book page and what works best for the medium of film. Being that this is the first film to sort of use this visual technique, I think people looked past its faults. I also think that once it was done here, the initial surprise and awe was gone, which is why no one cared much when the sequel came out and why the visual flare didn’t work to hide the faults of Frank Miller’s very similar film, The Spirit.

Additionally, sometimes the comic book elements seem very heavy handed and forced. The scene where Marv escapes the SWAT team may work in the comics but it felt bizarre and goofy in the movie. It would have been more effective if it was toned down and reworked, as opposed to Miller and Rodriguez trying to copy the comic panel by panel. This never works well, which was also why 2009’s The Watchmen had a lot of problems. Personally, I’d rather just stick to the comics if the filmmakers want to just recreate everything panel to shot.

Another problem with directly adapting comics is that the dialogue that works in one medium sometimes sounds terrible in another. Some lines when delivered on screen were cringe worthy moments. Still, I mostly liked everyone’s performance in this despite the sometimes questionable direction and script.

Sin City didn’t blow my mind like it did when I first saw it thirteen years ago. That’s fine. It is still pretty damn good and enjoyable but at first glance, way back in the day, I probably would have given this a nine out of ten rating. But at its core, it just isn’t that good of a film, even if it caused me to fanboy out in 2005.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and The Spirit.

Film Review: I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017)

Release Date: January 19th, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Macon Blair
Written by: Macon Balir
Music by: Brooke Blair, Will Blair
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Jane Levy, David Yow, Devon Graye

Film Science, XYZ Films, Netflix, 96 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t want a pay-off.” – Ruth, “Well, then I’m confused. What do you want?” – Chris Rumack, “For people to not be assholes.” – Ruth

I have always liked Melanie Lynskey and even thought that Charlie Sheen was an idiot for not hooking up with her on a full-time basis on Two and a Half Men. Mainly, because she was much better than the typical girls Charlie dated, even if she was a bit crazy.

Elijah Wood has always been an interesting actor to me, working in so many great independent pictures and even being the centerpiece of a massive blockbuster franchise with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Seeing these two come together for this film really peaked my interest. Plus, Jane Levy, who is making a name for herself in pictures with a darker tone, is also in this and I’m growing to like her as I see more of her.

Sadly, despite this film getting off to a great start, things quickly fizzle out and get a bit too over the top in a way that seems too forced.

The film starts out as an endearing sort of romantic comedy about a woman that is sick of the world and the people in it. She finds a weird but pretty cool guy and they go on an adventure together, trying to track down her stolen stuff. The film then gets darker and darker to the point where it is hard to keep the emotional connection you made with these characters earlier on in the film and honestly, you completely lose touch with them.

It is mostly enjoyable but it started out looking like it could be something exceptional and it just released its hold on you and became a disheveled mess. Suddenly, it was like it was trying too hard to be cool and shocking and the last act of the film just felt misguided and out of place.

I mostly liked the movie but ultimately, it let me down.

Also, the filmmakers should have learned more about the behaviors of snakes before making the appearance of one a somewhat important development at the end of the picture.