Film Review: Wolf (1994)

Release Date: June 17th, 1994
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Written by: Jim Harrison, Wesley Strick
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Eileen Atkins, David Hyde Pierce, Ron Rifkin, Prunella Scales, David Schwimmer, Allison Janney

Columbia Pictures, 125 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve never loved anybody this way. Never looked at a woman and thought, if civilization fails, if the world ends, I’ll still understand what God meant.” – Will Randall

Back when this came out, I initially wanted to see it. However, everyone that did really trashed it and since I was still a young teen and my time and funds were limited, I passed on it. But over the years, I did wonder why people seemed to dislike it so much.

I saw it streaming on one of my many services, so I figured that I’d check it out to see what people took issue with. However, I really couldn’t find anything glaringly negative and thought that Wolf was rather good. And I guess the opinion of the public has changed over the years, at it seems to be viewed fairly favorably these days.

I mean, how bad could a film be with this cast?

You’ve got Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Spader and all three give good performances. As does the talented supporting cast that includes Christopher Plummer, Richard Jenkins, Prunella Scales and Ron Rifkin. You’ve also got smaller roles for up and coming actors like David Schwimmer, David Hyde Pierce and Allison Janney. Between all of them, there isn’t a weak link in the bunch.

Plus, this is a werewolf movie! And not just that, it is a werewolf movie featuring Jack f’n Nicholson and James f’n Spader as feuding werewolves! Granted, they start as friends but as the story rolls on, you learn that the young, opportunistic Spader is willing to crush his friends for his own personal benefit. James Spader has always made a great bad guy and it’s kind of refreshing seeing Jack Nicholson playing a very good, moral character that is victimized by his own power hungry protégé.

Speaking of werewolves, the practical special effects here are handled by Rick Baker, who is the greatest werewolf effects guy of his generation after working on both An American Werewolf In London, as well as the original Howling. He also crafted effects for other werewolf related projects like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video and the Fox television show Werewolf, which scared the bejesus out of me when I was too young to watch it.

Baker’s effects in this are top notch and he really takes the best of what he’s learned from his other werewolf projects and utilizes them to great effect, here.

I also liked the story, as it focuses on the rivalry of two literal alpha dogs in the corporate world. However, even the romance stuff was pretty decent. The love story isn’t by any means the greatest ever told onscreen but Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, despite their age difference, felt like they had a natural connection and it just works.

Now I thought the ending was a bit strange but it doesn’t wreck the film. The actual finale was pretty well done but the the closing moments, after the awesome werewolf fight, were presented oddly. It’s like this went from a pretty straightforward werewolf movie to something overly stylized and artistic in it’s closing sequence. It just felt weird and out of place and I audibly muttered, “Huh?”

Still, Wolf is pretty solid and damn enjoyable.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Step Brothers (2008)

Release Date: July 25th, 2008
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, John C. Reilly
Music by: Jon Brion
Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Rob Riggle, Ken Jeong, Phil LaMarr, Seth Rogen, Horatio Sanz

Relativity Media, The Apatow Company, Mosaic Media Group, Gary Sanchez Productions, Columbia Pictures, 98 Minutes, 106 Minutes (unrated cut)

Review:

“I wanna roll you up in a little ball and shove you up my vagina… You could just live there, it’s warm and it’s cozy… Oh I’d just walk around with you in there and just knowing, whenever I feel a little tickle or scratch it’s your hair on my vagina!” – Alice

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge Will Ferrell fan. I did like him on Saturday Night Live, in an era where the show was good, and I do like his chemistry with John C. Reilly. But still, that’s not enough to make this film work for me.

The problem is that Will Ferrell’s comedies have a few jokes that land but they’re usually lost in a sea of misses. And really, most of his jokes have been recycled to death and predate him.

I do like a lot of stupid comedies but Ferrell’s don’t do much to help that genre evolve. He relies on low brow humor and by milking the same cow that the worst comedians have been milking for decades. He just makes his movies zanier, which I guess is supposed to make them funnier.

Now I mostly liked this film the first time that I saw it but it’s not something that I ever needed to watch again. Also, from a narrative standpoint, nothing that happens here matters or holds any sort of weight. There really isn’t much of a story, there’s just a plot thread set up to weave together a bunch of fart and dick jokes. Also, there’s the obligatory over the top profanity because yelling out “fuck” in the middle of a joke’s delivery makes it funnier or something.

I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting on the guy or this movie but by the time that this did come out, his shtick really ran dry for me. Although, I do have friends that adore this movie for some reason.

It is funny in parts and the two leads have charm and always seem to work well off of one another. However, Reilly has proven he’s a much better actor than this and he’s actually superior to Ferrell in regards to his comedic roles.

I don’t know, this is just a stupid film to me. It doesn’t have a lot of replay value and I have to deduct points off of any movie that has Rob Riggle in it. When people were boycotting the NFL because of freedom of expression being un-American, I was boycotting it because Rob Riggle was hired to work on a Sunday pregame show.

Anyway, I really like and respect Mary Steenburgen, so I’ll say that she’s a beaming light of sunshine and positivity in this but I really don’t need to ever watch this again because I saw this movie before it was even made.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Will Ferrell movies and “bro” comedies of the ’00s and ’10s.

Film Review: Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Release Date: October 1st, 2015 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
Written by: S. Craig Zahler
Music by: Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig, Sean Young, Michael Pare, Zahn McClarnon

Caliber Media Company, Realmbuilders Productions, The Jokers Films, 132 Minutes

Review:

“Say goodbye to my wife. I’ll say hello to yours.” – Sheriff Franklin Hunt

*Written in 2016.

From the moment I saw the Bone Tomahawk trailer, I thought it looked really interesting and I was a bit hyped to see it. Plus, it starred Kurt Russell.

The film is a western with horror mixed in, which makes it a pretty unique package. A sheriff and a posse head off into the wilderness to find a woman who was taken by Indians. The catch is, these aren’t normal Indians, they are cannibalistic and bizarre. Think The Hills Have Eyes meets The Searchers.

Kurt Russell is fine enough in the role but it isn’t a great or special performance. He looks to be enjoying himself but he isn’t doing anything exceptional. He certainly doesn’t project the magic he had in Tombstone or the more recent The Hateful Eight. The film also stars Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox with brief appearances from Sid Haig and David Arquette.

Overall, the film was underwhelming. There wasn’t a whole lot of terror and dread, even once the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan. The action was mediocre, the acting was average and the plot wasn’t anything spectacular. In fact, it was fairly boring.

The uniqueness of the film’s plot was spoiled by the trailer and the movie itself didn’t do much to expand on it. It also played it safe. With the subject matter and the intensity of the trailer, the movie just didn’t have the balls I was expecting it to.

Now I don’t think the movie should have been a gore festival but it was pretty uneventful and the horror element wasn’t remotely scary. There was just a lot of cannibal Indians grunting and walking around making weird noises because they have whistles in their throats. And the whole whistle throat thing was probably employed to make them seem supernatural and scary but it was kind of goofy.

Bone Tomahawk is okay enough for a single viewing on a rainy day but it isn’t a classic by any means. It has its fans out there but it will most likely fade into obscurity fairly quickly.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Ravenous, Four of the Apocalypse and The Burrowers.

Film Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

Release Date: August 31st, 2017 (Venice International Film Festival)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer

Double Dare You Productions, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 123 Minutes

Review:

*Warning: there will be spoilers!

“You may think, “That thing looks human.” Stands on two legs, right? But – we’re created in the Lord’s image. You don’t think that’s what the Lord looks like, do you?” – Strickland

I was fairly excited for The Shape of Water, as it isn’t very often that we get movies with Gillmen or some variant of one. The Creature From the Black Lagoon is one of my favorite movies of all-time, so I have always had a soft spot for aquatic humanoid monsters. Plus, Guillermo del Toro is pretty much the godfather of the modern dark fairy-tale.

It should probably go without saying that this film was a visual delight and that it boasted incredible cinematography and great lighting. All of this was enhanced by the great care and attention to detail in the set design and the overall early 1960s setting. It was like the flip side of a Mad Men world, where instead of light and cheeriness, there is a looming darkness and a cloud of depression over these characters and their world.

This isn’t a straight up reinterpretation of The Creature From the Black Lagoon though. It is actually closer to that film’s sequels, which saw the Gillman in captivity and being experimented on by human scientists. But even then, this is more of a Beauty and the Beast story than anything else. It just so happens that the beast is an aquatic creature from the Amazon and that he is a prisoner of evil men.

Beauty in this case is Sally Hawkins’ Elisa. She is a cleaning lady that works at a big government institution where they are doing experiments on the monster. She has an immediate attraction to the creature, as both are outsiders who have been treated badly by others. You see, Elisa is a mute and she is constantly treated differently because of her handicap.

As the story rolls on, Elisa falls in love with the creature, as he doesn’t see her as someone with a handicap. While the story generally works well it is a bit forced and overly sappy. Del Toro lays it on real thick.

Eventually, Elisa frees the creature from the institution and keeps him at her home where the two do get it on. Maybe I’m old fashioned but the sex element to the story was a bit bizarre and brings up questions of bestiality whether or not the creature is intelligent or not. In the film, this just seemed to be an afterthought because love is the focus. Well, I’ve loved all my dogs over the years but I never fucked them and one of them was intelligent enough to open doors.

The sex with the creature angle would be okay in some twisted grindhouse picture that’s made to shock people but here it happens in a film that carries a message of love and is well made, well produced and will probably be up for a lot of big awards in a few months. And the issue just felt like an afterthought. It’s not just some plot point to accept within the context, it’s a pretty big moral curveball. But I guess most of the other critics are okay with Beauty banging the Beast before he returns to human form. But this film isn’t cheap fantasy erotica… or is it? Is this just Fifty Shades of Beast Cock?

The film also keeps beating its audience with how much these people are outsiders. It doesn’t take much to figure out and it could have been done much more subtlety. I feel like del Toro is falling into the same trap as a lot of contemporary filmmakers, where he feels the need to spell everything out and then keep reinforcing those points throughout the movie.

The film is also two hours but it felt like it was three. The first half moves fairly quickly but once the monster escapes the clutches of the evil humans, everything just drags to a crawl. We get a big showdown in the end but ultimately, the film was pretty predictable. Well, except for the bestiality curveball. Glad I didn’t take my mum or one of my aunts to this. I never would’ve heard the end of it, “Oh, Robbie… the fish man is nice but why would you have sex with him? He’s a fish man!”

I liked this movie from a technical and visual standpoint but I was letdown by the story and its execution. I thought the acting as exceptional but that can’t save a poor script and clunky narrative.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The Cabin In the Woods (2012)

Release Date: March 9th, 2012 (SXSW)
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Music by: David Julyan
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver

Mutant Enemy Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Look, you guys just stay in the Rambler. I’ll get help. If I wipe out, I’ll fucking limp for help. But I’m coming back here. I’m coming back with cops and choppers and large fucking guns, and those things are going to pay… For Jules.” – Curt

I went into this picture blindly, which is definitely the best way to experience it. This is a movie that throws a hell of a lot of curveballs in the most awesome way possible. The less you know about it, the better. And to be completely honest, I am not a Joss Whedon fan but this was damn good and probably the best thing he’s ever done. Suck it, Firefly.

So what can I say about this film? I’d rather not spoil it for people, as I’m not that guy. Just know that it is never quite what you expect it to be and that it hits you with surprises, again and again.

The most notable actors in it are Chris Hemsworth a.k.a. Thor, Sigourney Weaver for a bit and Bradley Whitford, a favorite of mine since the 80s, alongside Richard Jenkins. I shouldn’t even get into what their roles are.

The film is not just Joss Whedon’s creation, it was co-written and directed by Drew Goddard. He’s been a busy guy with Marvel’s Daredevil series, as of late. He was also the director of the original Cloverfield and a major contributor to the TV series LostAliasBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He even had a hand in The Martian and World War Z.

The Cabin In the Woods is a horror film that literally has everything in it. And I don’t say that using the words “literally” and “everything” lightly.

The only downside to this film is rewatching it. Now it is still good but you can only be caught off guard once and you already know what tricks are up Whedon’s and Goddard’s sleeves after the first viewing. Still, it is entertaining and a really cool and fresh take on a really tired formula.

In a lot of ways, The Cabin In the Woods kind of rewrote the book on “cabin in the woods” movies the same way Scream rewrote the book on slasher pictures.

This isn’t a great film by any means but it is a hell of a lot of fun and if you go into it knowing as little as possible, you’ll probably leave the experience very satisfied.

The trailer is below, as I always post a trailer. However, watching it may spoil too much. You have been warned.

Rating: 7.5/10