Tag Archives: One Hour Photo

Never Let Me Go

Back in 2002, Robin Williams lobbed three dark performance hand grenades, the most powerful of which was One Hour Photo.  What was so compelling about Photo was not only Williams’ ability to channel a character who was simultaneously repulsive, pitiable, and menacing (Anthony Perkins anyone?), but director Mark Romanek’s stark photography.  His shots still remain burned into my cerebral celluloid and his work with Never Let Me Go reveals the same beauty, but doesn’t quite carry the same human vitality. Continue reading

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Fall(ish) Movie Preview: September

The summer film season is coming to a close, but there is plenty to look forward to. Here is your complete mega movie fall preview.

:author’s note:

I believe that trailers reveal so much information that it can spoil or at least impede the experience of watching a film for the first time. I would recommend avoiding trailers if you know you’re going to see a film. If you’re unsure of a film, however, be my guest.

Continue reading

“World’s Greatest Dad” One of the Best of the Fest

Robin Williams has had a spotty track record.  He did Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo, and the hilarious dark comedy Death to Smoochy.  However, he also did RV and License to Wed, so you can’t just pick any Robin Williams film and bank on its awesomeness.  However, I am happy to report that World’s Greatest Dad is one of his awesome.

Robin Williams plays Lance Clayton, a high school English teacher who dreams of being a famous writer.  Sadly, he keeps churning out book after book, only to meet an equal number of refusals from publishers.  Lance jokes that he’d love to make “a shitload of cash,” but as with most artists, would just love to find an audience.  With his son Kyle obnoxiously demeaning any attempts at bonding, the impending demise of his poetry class, and girlfriend Claire’s coziness with other English teacher Michael, life couldn’t be any worse for Lance.  When will he get his break?

This is another film that delivers in unexpected ways, so I’m keeping a lid on the rest.  Williams’ portrayal of Lance lacks the conviction of psychiatrist Sean from Good Will Hunting or the mad hilarity of Rainbow Randolph in Death to Smoochy.  Instead, he’s just a poor sap with moments of comic wit.  He isn’t as pathetic as Caden Cotard in Synecdoche, New York, but he acts just weak enough to make us believe in the push-over existence of a character who feels authentic.

However, after sucker punching you with laughter, the film uppercuts you with intriguing themes: an interesting analysis of celebrity culture and the concurring illusions of connectivity to the famous showcases the film’s intelligence and attraction. It also poses questions about truth, ethics and art–for example, when a piece of art affects people’s lives like the asteroid affected the dinosaurs, does the fact that said art was founded on a lie undermine the truth others find within that lie?  Should you just keep lying to continue helping people or shatter their worldview by being honest?

This however, is not to say that the film is stuck up its own ass.  Daryl Sabara will surely find his way into mainstream comedy culture, based on his portrayal of the uncouth little asshole Kyle, who spews vileness that rivals the most uncomfortable moments of Superbad.  And Alexie Gilmore does a great job as Claire, manipulating the audience and Lance alike: does she really like him or is it a charade?  Her affections are genuinely endearing, which is all the more confusing when she says she’s “just friends” with Michael…

The film will leave you breathless with laughter, but also stray into the dark, touching, and intellectually engaging.  This is all the more impressive since it was written and directed Bobcat Goldthwait, that guy better known for parts in the Police Academy movies and the voice of Foppy the puppet on the tv show Unhappily Ever After… Goldthwait is able to take us deeper into the comedy/drama realm than the recent triumphs of Judd Apatow in Funny People, Knocked Up, and The 40 Year Old Virgin.  Where Apatow’s films are touching, Goldthwait is nicking the marrow of human existence with his subtle analysis of relationships and loneliness.  I don’t know if World’s Greatest Dad is just a fluke of artistic achievement from Goldthwait, but I will be looking forward to his next film.

World’s Greatest Dad could be one of the best films at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.  In a week and a half I can affirm or deny this prediction, but in the mean time, I need to find out when I can see it again.

author’s note

It appears that the film has already been released theatrically and is available on DVD.  Find this film and pass it around, I beseech thee.  You will not be disappointed.

The Wolfman

The new Wolfman

Monster movies have been a mainstay of American Horror films and they all owe a debt to The Universal Monsters. Many of the group had literary origins and were given their screen debut by Universal Pictures from the 1920’s until 1960; the major monsters included Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, and of course, the Wolf Man.

This re-make stars Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, who returns to England when his brother Ben is reported missing; by the time Lawrence arrives, Ben’s mutilated body is found.  Lawrence stays at home with his father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), and Ben’s brooding fiancé, Gwenn Conliffe.

And of course Lawrence wants to find the killer of his brother, who turns out not to be a lunatic or a gypsy’s bear, but something much more unnatural.  Scarred by his encounter with the beast, Lawrence goes on to learn of monstrous curses.

This film wants to be Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992)…and not.  The setting, costume design, lighting, all give it the mood and atmosphere of a film really reaching for something memorable.  At the same time though, the pacing is too quick, too abrupt and jerky.  It lacks any faith in the actors and the script, jumping from scene to scene, shot to shot, which tells me it wants to be about action at the core.  Do you remember Let the Right One In?  That little vampire film had faith in the material and in its actors, which shows in the camera work: doing less means there is more to be focusing on.  The quiet camera movements in Let the Right One In make the violent segments that much more jarring.  The Wolfman just doesn’t have the skill to do the same, going for cheap thrills that will make you jump, but won’t evoke true dread.

Why the schizophrenic interpretation?  Because original director Mark Romanek was dropped from the picture (or he left of his own volition).  Romanek did the amazing One Hour Photo (2002), which was all about mood and slower pacing.  So the atmospheric elements to The Woflman are probably attributed to Romanek.  His replacement (and current credit holder on the film), was Joe Johnston…the guy who brought you Jurassic Park III.  Now you know where the action-y feel comes from.

Along with the director switch just before production, there’s also been mention of special effects issues (Rick Baker is credited, but was supposedly kept on the sidelines as CGI did most of the work), new editors, re-shoots, and on-set rewrites.  This latter bit shows, as halfway through the film we find out (I’ll give the spoiler alert, but I guessed it from the outset) MINOR SPOILER, that Sir John Talbot killed Lawrence’s mother as a werewolf; she did not slit her throat cleanly as Lawrence had remembered it. After we see this flashback, Lawrence redundantly states, “You killed my mother.”  SPOILER OVER This statement was funny unto itself: we see what happened, we don’t need a narrator to guide us.  But Del Toro’s delivery of this line had everyone in the cinema giggling, which pushed this film into Giallo type camp  (if you haven’t read my review of  Giallo, trust me, that’s pretty bad).

Though the film boasts great actors like Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, there’s only one redeeming aspect to The Wolfman and that’s the ridiculous amounts of gore.  Amidst other big budget fare frightened of the R rating, it was cool to see a werewolf’s true capacity for bloodshed.  So kudos for being bloody, but shame on you for making a film so bloody banal (zing!).  If you just spent more time building up before the gore, this could have been a great film.

Just go see this instead. It's great.

A lesser film critic would quip: “Blah blah blah, but The Wolfman is nothing to howl about.”  I try to do a good job here, so instead of a quip, I’ll recommend another film featuring the Wolf Man over this version: The Monster Squad. This was a film made in 1987 about a bunch of kids who have to fight the major Universal Monsters who are trying to obtain an amulet that will open a wormhole to hell.

Now, that may sound really hokey (and the trailers don’t help, do not use them to judge the film), but it was written by Shane Black, the same guy who wrote the Lethal Weapon films and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  Thus, the film is clever, funny, and makes these kids feel surprisingly real.  If you liked The Sandlot and Goonies, you’ll be wondering if The Monster Squad is the best of the three.

The Wolfman is okay (go only for the gore), but you’ll have a better night if you and your buddies watch The Monster Squad.  At least that film has nards.