JCR Factor #9

Welcome back around to the latest and final John C. Reilly Factor — Thomas J’s latest character study. If you’re hankering for more posts just like this, be sure to visit the Features menu up top and check out sub-menu, John C. Reilly!

It’s a shame I could only make it to nine with this feature. I could have come up with an even-number of these posts had I not procrastinated so much earlier in the year. Alas, here we are in December and with me not wanting to extend the feature into the new year. No, I didn’t get to Gangs of New York. No, I didn’t get to watching Hard Eight nor Wreck It Ralph nor The Aviator. I also neglected roles like Dewey Cox, John (from Cyrus), Franklin (from We Need to Talk About Kevin), Maury Slocum (Life After Beth), Amos Hart or the voice of #5. I know. That’s a lot of stuff I could have talked about this year but there are, after all, so many hours in a day and so it is with this potentially lesser-known (or more forgotten) role that I bid adieu to this feature.

John C. Reilly as Tucker Van Dyke in Lasse Hallström’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Role Type: Supporting

Genre: comedy/drama/romance

Character Profile: Tucker is a small-town, good-natured man who wants to find better work for himself so he can improve the quality of his life. He is, for all intents and purposes, an everyman who is at once easy to identify with and easy to be around. In Endora, everyone knows everyone and of course Tucker has been friends with Gilbert Grape for years. Throughout the film he’s seen lending a hand as Gilbert makes repairs around the rundown family home in which his morbidly obese mother has been hiding herself for over 7 years. Tucker has aspirations of getting a job at the Burger Barn, a new fast food joint that is brought in with hopes that it will boost the small-town economy.

If you lose JCR, the film loses: one of its most charming characters. This isn’t one of those roles where I have trouble envisioning anyone else playing the part and yet Tucker Van Dyke gives Reilly yet another chance to show his versatility as this is one of his most stripped-back and humble characters I’ve yet highlighted. A highly affable, helpful man but one who still has a quirky mannerism or two that would likely not be there had the character been imbued with anyone else’s style. Certainly not the most meaty role, his Tucker makes the small Iowan town feel a little less depressing and a little more friendly.

That’s what he said: “Listen, I saw a guy at the state fair who was . . . a little bigger. Look, all I’m sayin’ is that she’s not the biggest I ever seen, okay?”

Rate the Performance (relative to his other work):


All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.popcultureimpacts.tumblr.com 

Black Mass

Release: Friday, September 18, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Mark Mallouk; Jez Butterworth

Directed by: Scott Cooper

In Scott Cooper’s third film, Johnny Depp is one bad man. How bad? Bad enough to make the stench of his Charlie Mortdecai finally drift away, sure. But now another question is bugging me: what does he do after this? How long does Irish-American thug James “Whitey” Bulger define Depp?

I suppose only until the next ill-advised project comes along, but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself too quickly. We ought to bask at least a little longer in this moment. His recent disasters notwithstanding, one thing hasn’t really changed about the actor: he is talented. The problem has been one of motivation; a preference for taking easy money instead of actually working for it. As much as that annoys me, I’d rather it be that than the man simply getting a case of the yips. (Do performance artists get the yips?) The talent didn’t disappear, it just went into hibernation . . . for several years. Now it re-emerges, volatile, unpredictable and explosive as he assumes the profile of one of the most notorious crime lords in American history.

Over the course of a short two hours — particularly short given the film’s slow-burn approach — Black Mass builds a damning case against not only Bulger and his reputation amongst both friends and enemies, but against the FBI. For obvious reasons the criminal activity is alarming, but there’s something just as unnerving about the ineptitude of the prominent law officials who fail for so long to gain the upper hand. In explaining just why that was the case, Black Mass becomes as seedy as the city it skulks around in, feeding bleak and ominous cinematography to viewers who, in all likelihood, are more curious as to how Depp fares than how his character does.

The film ratchets up the tension tracking the rise and fall of a tenuous relationship, rarely offering respite. Bulger and FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) grew up together on the streets, with Connolly being something of an admirer of the notoriously ruthless criminal. That’s sort of how he’s talked into becoming an informant as a way to eliminate the Italian contingent of the Winter Hill Gang, who have been encroaching on Bulger’s South Boston territory. Conducting ‘business’ with Bulger is the kind of stunt that proves to be a hard sell for Connolly to make to his peers and especially his boss, Special Agent Charles McGuire (Kevin Bacon). Bulger has, of course, a few protective barriers that make his arrest nigh on impossible. His brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the mayor of Boston while Whitey’s reputation around town provides the movie its quota of visceral, sudden deaths that are brutally staged and extremely well-timed.

Despite the few who are stupid enough to doubt or defy Whitey, Black Mass isn’t quite as physical as you might expect; it works best as a psychological drama involving a slew of characters that are as difficult to trust as their own unrepentantly hateful attitudes are to justify. Reminiscent of Cooper’s previous effort, Out of the Furnace, is a brilliant, character-driven screenplay that paints a portrait of organized crime and corruption that has infiltrated all levels of society. David Harbour is in as Connolly’s partner-in-crime(solving) John Morris, while Bacon handles Special Agent McGuire with aplomb . . . and a semi-ridiculous Boston accent. Notable criminal personalities are brought to life by the likes of Jesse Plemons (as Kevin Weeks), Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, W. Earl Brown, and Bill Camp, all of which add tremendous depth to this portrait of a Boston all but overrun by violent criminal activity.

Indeed, Depp is not on his own here, even if his is the worst in a bunch of very bad seeds, and even if his presence will be the only one we’ll feel for a long time after leaving the theater. Cooper’s ensemble cast — including a reprieve for Dakota Johnson in the form of Bulger’s longtime girlfriend Lindsay and a random appearance from Adam Scott as a peripheral FBI agent — are largely to thank for the film’s inglorious depiction of corrupt and criminal ways of thinking. That Black Mass has such a stacked cast — another similarity to his 2013 blue-collar drama — means the admittedly pedestrian narrative has more room to breathe. These characters are intimidating in their own ways, distinguishing a story that we’ve seen redressed over and again by the likes of Martin Scorsese and Brian de Palma, even Michael Mann’s Public Enemies in which Depp portrayed another infamous gangster.

This film doesn’t quite glorify the lifestyle of Scorsese’s mean streets but if I’m even suggesting that kind of comparison (without feeling overly dramatic doing so), Cooper is clearly doing something right. Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth’s screenplay paints broad strokes, and there are several plot strands that disappear at a moment’s notice as we cover the roughly 10-year period in which Whitey rose to prominence. Even if it does leave a few questions unanswered, Black Mass remains unencumbered by a lack of meticulousness because it ultimately succeeds in provoking dread and fear. An evil empire was allowed to flourish under the FBI, and that part is more fucked up than anything.

In fewer words, Black Mass tries to stand out, whereas Johnny Depp actually does.

Recommendation: In a welcomed return to form for Captain Jack Sparrow Johnny Depp, Black Mass offers an acting showcase for everyone involved. Fact-based story takes us on a harrowing journey through the rough streets of south Boston of the ’70s and ’80s and while some parts could have benefitted from expansion, on the whole this is a story well worth paying to see on the big screen. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 122 mins.

Quoted: “You were just saying? ‘Just saying’ gets people sent away. ‘Just saying’ got me a nine-year stretch in Alcatraz, you understand? So, ‘just saying’ can get you buried real quick.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Mortdecai

mortdecai-movie-poster

Release: Friday, January 23, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Eric Aronson

Directed by: David Koepp

Charlie Mortdecai has a sensitive gag reflex. He endearingly calls it a ‘sympathetic gag.’ After seeing Johnny Depp embrace an entirely new level of bizarre here, I’m pretty sure I’ve developed something similar, except mine’s not out of sympathy. I’m genuinely disgusted by how bad this movie is.

If like me at my apparently most vulnerable you were unfortunate enough to stumble into a theater only to have Johnny Depp harass your sense of humor and goodwill for slightly more than an hour and a half, you might agree that there is a huge difference between the gags featured in decent comedies and the ones provided here. Two types of gags activating two completely different parts of your body.

The apple of Charlie’s eye, his so-called great love Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), gags in the film because she is taken aback by her man’s interest in sprouting hair on his upper lip. A fashion faux pas at the very least, the mustache might be the funniest bit of the entire film. Mortdecai is an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. If anyone’s in need of an explanation as to why I would willingly put myself through something that sounds this bad, I need only to refer you to some of the media I have included with this review. I hardly gag in response to a mustachioed Olivia Munn. No siree. Nope.

A plot synopsis is as follows: Depp aims to get to the bottom of the theft of a particular Goya painting, or something or other. As a man who dabbles in more than just facial hair and beautiful women, his character caricature is both financially and personally invested in the stolen art. His recent coming into debt compels him to find it, as does a recent visit from Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor, the poor chap), a man who has had a thing for Johanna ever since he first laid eyes on her. (When she’s saddled with a douchebag of Mortdecai’s stature, who can blame him?) Together, the art snobs and Constable Can’t Get Any travel the world over to locate the missing Goya, thought to bear a code somewhere on it potentially leading to a stash of untold amounts of Nazi gold.

The prime suspect is — well, it doesn’t matter who that is. Essentially everyone’s a suspect, even Mortdecai but after he’s kidnapped by Russian mobsters and his very ability to reproduce is threatened in no small way — how about some electrocuted bollocks to go along with this heaping helping of what the fuck? — it’s clear that Mortdecai, in spite of himself, hasn’t actually taken the precious artwork for himself. Jock will back him up on that, too. Jock (Paul Bettany), referred to as Mortdecai’s man-servant no less than 70 million times because repeating already lame jokes always seems to do the trick with audiences, is a good bloke despite his zipper problems. That he’s always got Charlie’s back takes precedence over his incredible womanizing abilities. Believe it or not, he’s the most likable character of the whole lot. I’m still scratching my head though as to why he signed on for this one.

People are going to be gunning for Depp after this one. That much is certain. But his colorful performance actually triggered some chuckles deep within. Maybe I feel dirty for admitting that. But he’s not the overriding issue with David Koepp’s impossibly dumb movie. The real killing blow is Mortdecai‘s inability to realize it’s potential. Or to even care about it! It can’t take itself seriously for even one second. Majority of the gags do not land, save for the physical ones that land on the floor; the characters are off-the-map ridiculous (Olivia Munn as a nymphomaniac — makes sense, if you’re going to cast someone that beautiful she may as well be a sex addict too; Jeff Goldblum is in the frame for all of two minutes, but suddenly collapses after being poisoned — I’m not sure if that was in the script or just his subtle way of saying “get me out of this farce”); the humor is too low-brow and monotonous even if occasionally it strikes a nerve. Nothing scatological here, but nothing memorable either.

An adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s comedy anthology, Don’t Point That Thing At Me, this movie is elegant in its failings. It’s difficult to imagine this squeezes out any of the zest of that book series. Unfortunately this is a production so feeble in its construction and so ill-advised in its overwhelming inanity it’s highly unlikely I’ll get around to checking out the source material. For higher-quality entertainment, you’d be better off getting your balls zapped by some angry Russians.

johnny-depp-and-paul-bettany-in-mortdecai

1-0Recommendation: This was pretty bad. I . . . I don’t know if I recommend Mortdecai on any level to anyone outside of those with a penchant for s. (I think that’s what led me into this theater, along with the three other poor saps that were there with me. Here I was, thinking my taste in movies was pretty decent . . . )

Rated: R

Running Time: 107 mins.

Quoted: “I had no idea I was so deep in Her Majesty’s hole!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com  

For No Good Reason

114080_gal

Release: Friday, April 25, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

If there’s any good reason to go see For No Good Reason, it’s the chance to see an extended slideshow of some of Ralph Steadman’s more provocative paintings.

Sure, you know who this guy is. His illustrations have probably even made an appearance in your nightmares at some point. Grotesque, emotionally raw and occasionally quite graphic, the splatter-art that has defined a couple of Hunter S. Thompson novels and the subsequent cinematic adaptations thereof has been a phenomenon you can’t quite ignore. The 78-year-old artist is simply too prolific. He has illustrated children’s books almost as much as he has detailed horrific imagery depicting some of the darkest corners of the human heart. While he has at times proven to be the voice of reason, other times he represents chaos and disorder, using his unique style to express deep frustration and even outrage at humanity’s capacity for evil, wrongdoing.

It is possible Steadman and his ideas are perhaps too big to fit into the home video format, which is essentially what For No Good Reason boils down to. His iconic work deserves much more detail and arguably even it’s own, separate film. Set Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets as the soundtrack to a collage of his best work, and you’re set; you have an instant classic on your hands. Neither the subject nor his art belong in a documentary quite as pedestrian as this. Director Charlie Paul and his wife, Lucy, a producer on the film, have good intentions, though, and they clearly revere the man and cherish the time they get to spend with him.

It’s certainly obvious what the film’s narrator — Hunter S. Thompson aficionado and puppeteer Johnny Depp — thinks, too. (Everything presented here is “amazing” to him. . .though he can’t really be faulted for saying the word over and over again, the work really is just that.) Ignoring all of the film’s blandness and a general failure to launch, the argument that the subject matter isn’t treated with respect cannot be made.

Any fan of the artiste or those with a general interest in the collaboration between Steadman and the father of gonzo journalism — a style of writing in which the narrator/author is not only spectator to the events surrounding him, but becomes a part of the drama himself, and writing from a point of view that’s not necessarily objective — will find themselves intrigued as Steadman regales the small camera crew that hangs about in his Kent, England home about a time in his life, something slightly more than a decade, that would prove to be both exciting and critical for his career. Touring the country with the crazed writer after bumping into him at the 1970 Kentucky Derby, Steadman would go on to experience great success as his frequent collaborations with Thompson gave him exposure he likely wouldn’t have received otherwise. In reflecting, Steadman’s nostalgia and passion for those days is palpable and these moments justify some of that ticket price.

But Johnny. . .oh Johnny: “Amazing.”

The documentary also is quite helpful in providing a first-hand account of how Steadman physically sets about creating his work. This is fascinating stuff as well. It could arguably be the main event. What blossoms out of a simple splattering of black paint is likely to leave the mind reeling. During this creative process the intimacy of the home video is actually beneficial. We always feel like we want to get closer to the artist and his canvas, and here we do.

Watching the soft-spoken Steadman go to work feels somewhat like a privilege, but elsewhere the production feels amateurish. The documentary doesn’t assume it’s audience has read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which seems a little counterintuitive since this documentary is all but catered to the fandom thereof. (Well, it’s not. It’s catered to the artwork. But the gonzo journalism-obsessives are likely to comprise the majority of the audience. This is a safe assumption, no?)

Outside of seeing the artist at work, there is not a great deal of payoff. Audiences paying to see this movie ought to have a decent background already on the Thompson-Steadman dynamic, but the Pauls make the mistake of assuming those in attendance haven’t yet accessed these beyond-ridiculous pages, this depraved adventure spewed forth from the collective minds of two men hell-bent on doing drugs and living the ‘American dream,’ as it were. There’s too much exposition and back-tracking, on top of a very awkward use of Depp. There’s a sense that we should all be paying more attention to this Hollywood celebrity more than the subject itself at times.

The film features additional interviews with the likes of Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), Richard E. Grant (Dracula), and Jann Wenner (Jerry Maguire) but their talking time is limited to unforgettable segments.

For No Good Reason means well, and it required a lot of effort and time to create. Apparently 15 years in the making, the final result unfortunately stoops to treating its audience as if it has deteriorated to the level of dumb beasts. Unless we have been casually sipping on gin and ingesting ether on a somewhat regular basis, there’s simply not enough here to justify a 90-minute production.

GALLERIA 

small Fahrenheit 451 hell hound

illustration for ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ a dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury

ralph-steadman-art-gallery-earth-belly

‘Earth Belly’

91GO7tqUAHL._SL1500_

queen and alice ralph steadman

‘Queen and Alice,’ an illustration for Alice in Wonderland

ralph-steadman-1

2-5Recommendation: Although fans of Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism, and Steadman’s unique art will undoubtedly find something to appreciate about the small window into the man’s life, this rather insignificant documentary ultimately comes off as slapdash, underserving both its subject and target audience by providing redundant information and failing to make proper use of Steadman’s utterly fascinating imagination. There are a few artistic flourishes throughout, but even these feel cheap and tacked-on. Somewhere out there lurks a better version of this film, and the faithful should stay vigilant for whatever that may be.

Rated: R

Running Time: 89 mins.

Quoted: “It’s what we’re thinking in the back of our heads, but aren’t capable of getting it out.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.ralphsteadman.com 

Transcendence

1888777_828101227203931_1475663089_o1

Release: Friday, April 18, 2014

[Theater]

Lol, uh. . .wut?

Well, this WAS supposed to be the ‘don’t-give-up-yet-on-Johnny-Depp’ movie, one that would give the colorful thespian room to breathe without his usual cloak of weirdness. . .no Captain Jack Sparrow accent, no scissor hands and no crazy Tonto face paint this time. In a cruel twist of fate, Depp is rewarded for his refreshingly restrained performance by playing one of the most outlandish characters he’s ever been handed, an ill-fated scientist who ends up having to communicate through an advanced computer system in what can only be described as the best performance ever committed via Skype.

Sound strange? That’s barely the tip of the iceberg.

This, the debut film from acclaimed cinematographer Wally Pfister — yes, Christopher Nolan’s Wally Pfister since Batman Begins  starts out as a rather unsuspecting sci-fi/mystery but quickly devolves into a thoroughly unbelievable and downright laughable affair that only gets more mysterious by the minute (a compliment, that is not). First-time direction from Pfister, coupled with Jack Paglen’s first major motion picture screenplay, creates an atmosphere that recalls a particularly acid-trippy episode of The X Files. So much for Depp coming across as normal.

Drs. Will (Depp) and Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) Caster are brilliant scientists on the cutting edge of technology with their research in the field of artificial intelligence. Together they yearn to create a computer with the collective human consciousness uploaded to it — an advanced machine like the world has never seen before. Such experiments have of course drawn massive publicity of both the positive and negative variety, and after a presentation one afternoon Will is gunned down by some anti-technology extremist. The shot itself isn’t fatal, but unfortunately for Will and Evelyn the bullet was coated in radioactive material which has infected his blood. In his dying days, Will watches as his wife and their long-time friend and fellow researcher Max (Paul Bettany) tempt what they only think is conceivable and not necessarily doable at the moment.

(Please don’t laugh at me in the comments when you read the next part. I am just the messenger here.)

They will try and upload Will’s consciousness into their computer system and keep him alive digitally since his brain/mind is in tact but his physical body clearly has been compromised. Just typing that conjures up images of a less gory Re-Animator. Except wacky, old Herbert West the med student might have had a more logical experiment going on in his lab.

Ethical boundaries begin to be flirted with (and later on prove to be violated) as Evelyn refuses to acknowledge the fact that once he’s dead, her husband will cease to be the man she has loved, and instead will only exist in some weird, nebulous cyberspace as a collection of pixels arranged on a screen his face happens to appear on. Pfister, in one of many ill-advised directorial movies, has Depp’s voice echo in a surround-sound like fashion whenever he’s on-screen following the. . .transformation. . . .to place emphasis on the concept that this man — this lunatic — hasn’t just merely disappeared inside a computer. He’s transcended human existence and can quite literally play God with the wealth of information and knowledge he now has.

The film’s only rational character Max isn’t so sure about the idea of his best friend being resurrected in a digital form. What good is going to come of this, he wonders as he notices Evelyn becoming more obsessed with the idea of keeping her husband alive. Meanwhile, the audience has checked out and is currently noticing that the cupholders in these particular armrests have no bottom to them so that’s why whenever you put your cell phone in there they fall right to the floor. Well, cool. Mystery solved!

In the meantime, Transcendence continues talking to itself in a language only it can understand. The characters are unsympathetic because they are completely kept out of our reach — we can’t really identify with or get behind any of them. Perhaps Max, but even then this connection is rather fleeting. The script is much too interested in stuffing technobabble down our throats than drawing us in with character development. In an area where Hall typically excels, she gives it her all to seem saddened by her loss as Will succumbs to radiation poisoning, and it comes close to making us feel somewhat human in this doggedly mechanical affair.

Boring, confusing and more often downright nonsensical, Transcendence fails to engage on any level and is perhaps the first film of 2014 that should be outright avoided at the theater.

rebecca-hall-in-a-white-hall

The very white Rebecca Hall in a very white hall. She looks even more cheesed off about the irony than I am. I guess that makes sense.

1-5Recommendation: Considering I’ve only just gotten over my sobbing about my disappointment in this final cut, I would have to pretty much recommend getting pneumonia over seeing this one. Well, okay. Maybe not pneumonia; that’s a bit extreme. Maybe a cold, though. It is quite simply ridiculous from the ground floor-up, on every level this movie makes no sense and refuses to try to explain itself.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 119 mins.

Quoted: “Where are you going?”

“Everywhere.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 2.45.59 PM

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the number of my followers drop after I admit that today’s entry is a movie I had never seen until now. . . Somehow, some way this classic from the mid-80s has eluded me. I can report that after all this time this movie remains just as terrifying as it was when first exposed to audiences in the day. Its easy to look past the dated acting, corny dialogue, and campy 80s effects because the story here is just so thrilling, and quite honestly scary. I had a blast with this TBT. ’twas a much more memorable one than last week’s, that’s to be sure. 

Today’s food for thought: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). 

nightmare-on-elm-street

 

Release: June 1, 1984

[Netflix]

No rest for the mentally disturbed/possibly stalked. . .

The spirit of a vicious child serial killer resurfaces in the nightmares of teens in modern-day and is responsible for their subsequent and shocking deaths in this tense, spooky thriller from who else, but Wes Craven (I’m actually not that familiar at all with his style, but since this is a horror film for the ages I figured I’d best get ahead and jump on the bandwagon as quick as possible to make up for lost time).

I think it’s a general desire to distance myself from having too many nightmares myself that kept me away from this vintage piece of cinema. You will not find me in my most comfortable state during scenes of teeth-grinding suspense and dramatically low-lit, creepy stalking sequences, but I had to make an exception here. Craven’s direction is superb, fully taking advantage of a disturbing premise and several buckets of blood syrup to create scene after scene that’s filled with dread, suspense and gore in ways that are rarely seen in today’s horror offerings. Within the first ten-ish minutes, I yearned immediately for a time machine to go back in time and just have horror films like this exist and nothing else — this, coming from a non-horror movie watcher. I’m sure that I’ve said this often enough, I just want to make it even more clear how much fun this movie is.

After Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) experiences the death of her friend Tina, she’s not fully convinced it was the murder that everyone understands it to be, and sooner rather than later she finds herself deeply personally involved in the mystery also, and the dream world she goes to when sleeping starts to blur with the real world.

Years ago, a terrible hat-wearing man (yes his hat was terrible) who killed children was tracked down by enraged parents, who then cornered him in a basement and set fire to the house. Now he lives on in the nightmares of other kids living on Elm Street, killing children as his revenge. With each passing day and seeing more and more disturbing things in her dreams, Nancy is increasingly scared to go to sleep and her mother (horror regular Ronee Blakely) becomes increasingly worried about her daughter’s mental state. Finally enough is enough for Nancy, and she becomes determined to both prove that Freddie is indeed still alive (no one believes her since, well. . you know. . . he was a pariah from yesteryear and is long gone now), and that she is not insane. Nancy makes attempts several times to have someone watch over her as she sleeps and attempts to drag her monstrous stalker from the dream world to the real one so the terrorizing can be stopped, once and for all.

Freddy-in-the-Wall

The Dreams:

  1. A very young Johnny Depp, as Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen Lentz. His big-screen debut.
  2. The bedroom scenes and “I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy. . .”
  3. Charles Bernstein’s score is really damn cool and suitably eerie.
  4. The fact that Freddy Krueger is played by an actor (Robert Englund). Thank god this guy isn’t real. . . . . . .right?
  5. There’s a heavy use of cheesy 80s props/effects here but they are so well-used these have ended up scarring me temporarily. Hopefully I’ll recover in a few days.

The Nightmares:

  1. Some acting bits are pretty questionable but in general these don’t even really bring the intensity down. Also, it is a film from the 80s. I should probably have expected a bit of camp in the dialogue every now and then.
  2. The fact there are so many sequels to this that I will likely never watch because I have this general understanding of how terrible they are.
  3. How dumb must you be to stay in the same town after you’re being suspected of murdering your girlfriend? (Rod Lane, I’m talking to you.) Why didn’t you just blow dodge? Hiding in the bushes, and then whispering to a passing-by Nancy doesn’t seem to be a terrible effective way of hiding yourself from the cops. I think he would have avoided his death if he hadn’t been so foolish.
  4. The ultimate show-down between Nancy and Freddy was a little silly. I was actually hoping for something more, but it still worked.
  5. The ending!!!!!! I am a person who appreciate finality, having some knowledge of things being over, whatever. Uh, this didn’t really satisfy that, but at the same time its not a bad ending at all. I’m very, very torn on how A Nightmare on Elm Street goes out. Still, I refuse to see the sequels.

nightmare-on-elm

Well, that’s it. That about wraps us up for this disturbing week on Throwback Thursday. Thanks for revisiting this one with me, and for still reading after I told you it took me almost 30 years to see it.

 

4-0Recommendation: Simply a classic, Craven’s low-budget and extra-creepy psychological thriller is both atmospheric and unnerving, and should be a permanent installment in any horror fan’s list of films to watch in the run-up to Halloween.

Rated: R

Running Time: 91 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.pophorror.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Lone Ranger

tlr1

Release: Wednesday, July 3, 2013

[Theater]

Don’t be fooled by the label. Although titled The Lone Ranger, this movie is far more interesting because of Tonto than it is because of what Armie Hammer tries to contribute to his John Reid/Lone Ranger. While even the white horse is more memorable than Hammer’s character (and a better actor, too), this is most definitely the Johnny Depp show again. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing had it not been the biggest compliment one might be able to pay this loud, messy project from those who brought you Pirates of the Caribbean.

It’s release is perfectly patriotic, as it comes storming into theaters right before the Fourth of July. There’s a nice rendition of The Star Spangled Banner hidden somewhere in the story. The Lone Ranger and his whacked-out sidekick are all about maintaining freedoms and seeking justice — all of this perhaps hinting to Disney’s inability to judge the quality of the product before judging the quality of its timely release. Somewhere out there in the wild and dusty desert of movie reviews I read that this film “is a rough cut of a slimmed down, better version.” I thought this description nailed it, since what we get isn’t really a bad film as much as it has just far too much going on. There’s too many detours throughout that loosen the wheels on this old locomotive and threaten to derail the entire thing before it’s two-and-a-half-hour run time is up.

The Lone Ranger begins with a boom. A train full of passengers suddenly becomes a weapon as the dreaded Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) manages to escape capture from the empty car he’s being held in and attracts a group of criminals to help him get away. Meanwhile, the tracks that the train is currently riding are still being constructed a couple of miles down the way, and with the conductor now incapacitated, wannabe-sheriff John Reid is unable to stop the train from careening off the end. During this first clash, Reid has been inadvertently handcuffed to a Native American spirit warrior who insists he is innocent to everything that has just happened. Reid insists he be arrested anyway. These opening twenty-ish minutes are exciting and foreshadow a healthy amount of action still to come — even if these action sequences come after extended periods of sleep-inducing exposition and unwanted narrative drift.

Verbinski then saddles us up with the local law enforcement as they ride horseback into some potentially dangerous territory where they hope to find and reprehend the deadly outlaw Cavendish. Having not seen a Westerner in awhile, even I don’t think it’s fair exactly to expect a Tombstone-quality picture from Disney; nor should we have hopes that John Wayne might pop out from behind a rock and completely steal the show. I guess we have Depp doing a lot of that, but this is more in the style of those fun-havin’ pirates in the Caribbean. . .only now we are on land seeking justice instead of buried treasure and all that. The following scenes are important as well and help explain the nature of the relationship between Tonto and John Reid, and what lights a fire under his ass, compelling him to seek vengeance on Cavendish himself — and of course, what is compelling him to don the famous black mask. These scenes are also rich in spoiler material so I’ll avoid detailing them.

Up to this point, we still have a rather interesting movie on our hands. But around the corner, in terms of developing anything worth remembering, all we get are tumbleweeds and dust bowls. Oh, and evil little bunnies.

It’s when we (eventually) start getting into the character development/trust-building phase that the movie starts crumbling. Hammer’s awkward, campy lines and terrible reaction shots are slight causes for alarm. I really wanted to start calling him Armie Hammy since most of what he’s been given in this film are lines that would fit more into children’s books than in an action movie that has more violence within the story than most young Disney fans might be accustomed to seeing. The cheese-factor is through the roof with him, but at least it’s not with Tonto. Instead, all Depp wants to do is call his newfound partner ‘Kemosabe’ and feed grains to his dead bird, which functions also as a headpiece. (Apparently, this is some kind of comfort to the deeply disturbed Indian.) Even with all of the little crowd-pleasing Depp-isms on display, his character feels awfully limited.

Of course, we get kicked off onto several side stories, and this pattern really contributes to The Lone Ranger‘s profusely long run time. One such story fills us in on Tonto’s background and how he has come to liking having dead bird on head. But we no want so much as we want much good big story. Justice is what I seek, Kemosabe.

Even despite the leads being not as strong as they need to be for a film that will center around them, we get satisfactory evil with Butch Cavendish. That dirty grin worn on his screwed-up-looking mouth is just sinister enough to overlook the fact that he is stupid as all hell. (How many times can you afford to let the duo escape death, when you have them right at gun point? The whole business of getting your word in before pulling the trigger is a trick that should be retired in movies, although I know it never will.)

Helena Bonham Carter is in this movie, though she doesn’t have much to play with other than one peculiar physical deformity. Tom Wilkinson is flat and lifeless as the businessman overseeing the development of the Transcontinental Railroad project. I typically enjoy the man’s presence; here, he is a complete waste. Whatever remains of the main cast that I haven’t mentioned are not really worthy of mention and fade into the background with ease.

To the film’s credit, the ending is rather stylish, and is perhaps the only moment in the entire thing that really evoked classic Lone Ranger appeal. It may too be a case of an extended sequence of action and adrenaline, but at least it’s quite a good bit of fun. As well, the scenery is beautiful and I really enjoyed the various physical places we go to, rather than the unnecessary lengths to which the director goes to try and flesh out his story. There’s some gorgeous panoramas of the giant mesas, some unique looks at famous arches, as well as some really great camerawork around the moving trains. In a nutshell, if Verbinski could have whittled this down to under two hours the story surely would have been more compelling and a bit more dramatic. Or at least, it would have had more of an appearance of being that way. With it meandering around from point to point, it seems the director is intent on pointing out everything that makes The Lone Ranger what it is, without much of a thought to creatively fuse it all together. A good draft of a film, but this should not be the final product.

tlr2

2-5Recommendation: Diehard Pirates of the Caribbean fans probably will take to this quite well. I am not a diehard fan, but I did find some similarities in the tone and style of The Lone Ranger. However, for whatever elements the two seem to have in common, Pirates of the Caribbean was the superior film. Depp is pretty decent as Tonto, but seems a little worn out and tired. Maybe that was just the incredibly lame script.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 149 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com