[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 11 – Tusk (2014)

Director: Kevin Smith

Cast: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Johnny Depp

Screenplay: Kevin Smith

102 mins. Rated R for some disturbing violence/gore, language and sexual content.

 

When people ask filmmakers and storytellers where they get their ideas, I would imagine they rarely say, “from a podcast.” Well, that’s what happened to writer/director Kevin Smith (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Holidays). On his Smodcast show with Scott Mosier, the idea percolated throughout episode 259 until they came to the story that became Tusk, the first film in Smith’s planned Canada Trilogy.

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard, Frank & Lola) is a host of the podcast The Not-See Party with best friend Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense, Almost Friends). Wallace plans to travel to Canada to interview the famous “Kill Bill” Kid, but when that plan falls through, Wallace finds another potential story at the home of Howard Howe (Michael Parks, Kill Bill vol. 2, Django Unchained), an elderly man with a very interesting past and a loneliness for someone to bestow his tale upon. But Wallace quickly finds that he is in for more than mere stories when he is drugged by Howe and awakens with a few body improvements. Now, Teddy and Ally (Genesis Rodriguez, Big Hero 6, TV’s Dame Chocolate), Wallace’s girlfriend, must travel to the great north to find him with the help of famous inspector Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).

Tusk is a rather odd film. It appears on the surface to be a satirical take on the Body Horror Subgenre of films, but Smith plays it completely straight. Almost too straight in fact, as I didn’t find myself connecting to the characters in an interesting or emotional way. Smith’s famous dialogue is rather absent as Wallace, Teddy, and Ally are all flawed in a way that makes them too unlikable. The plot runs its course rather easily, but there is still fun to be had here. It just isn’t as blatant.

That being said, Michael Parks is excellent. The late great actor is a thespian of the odd and extreme, and he plays Howard perfectly. The scenes featuring him are the best in the film. I also loved Johnny Depp having a little bit of fun and not playing the same character that we’ve seen numerous times. It’s great seeing his push the envelope of LaPointe to strange new avenues, and I look forward to seeing how he is further developed in the concluding chapters of this trilogy.

The trilogy idea is rather fun as well, and Smith has already pushed on with Yoga Hosers with word on Moose Jaws unknown at the moment. It’s clear that Smith is interested in making his films for him and I can respect that. It just might not be all that lucrative.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Early Review] Split (2016)

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Betty Buckley

Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language.

 

Good, I needed to wash disappointment of The Bye Bye Man away…

In Split, the newest horror film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Visit), three girls are kidnapped leaving a birthday party and awaken in a strange and unknown room. Their kidnapper is Dennis (James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class, Victor Frankenstein), a creepy and unstable man with an interest in watching girls dance naked. But it gets worse, because Dennis is also Patricia, a woman who strives for perfection and has a dark plan for the girls. Patricia is also Barry, who loves fashion and shows his sketches to his doctor, Karen Fletcher (TV’s Eight is Enough, The Happening). Dennis, Patricia, and Barry are just three of the twenty-three identities within one man, Kevin. As Dennis and Patricia put a plan into action to have the girls killed for a higher purpose, one of them, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch, Barry) uses her wits in an attempt to free herself and the others before a 24th personality, known only as The Beast, is unleashed upon them.

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I didn’t see The Visit. The last film from Shyamalan that I partook in was The Last Airbender, so as I recall, the breakup was pretty rough. Well, I’m glad to say that, with Split, M. Night is back and at his most loony. Split is a fun, taut thriller that plays like something out of the annals of Tales from the Crypt. It begins with an interesting idea, slightly unhinged, with excellent and engrossing characters, and a twist that works so well and only adds to the fun of the film rather than take away like The Village did.

McAvoy is at the top of his game here as he is given the ultimate acting showcase, switching between identities at will without dropping a note. And each identity is given so much character and charisma that it’s easy to see who is in charge of Kevin at any given moment. That’s the real win with his performance. I look at films like Transformers (wait, hear me out) and it often becomes difficult to ascertain which character is which when all the robots are fighting because they all look so similar, but in Split, it is perfectly clear at all times, even when Kevin is having a disagreement with himself.

Supporting players Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley are also notably great. Taylor-Joy is really quickly rising up the fame ladder, appearing in 3 films of merit last year and The Witch the year before. She is impressively smart and skilled as Casey. Buckley has been a mainstay of film and television for some time stemming back to her first role in Brian DePalma’s Carrie. The level of gravitas only seeks to make the film more believable especially when it hits the height of its lunacy.

The film is not without its detractors. My fiancé, for example, who has a background in the medical field, found that the suspension of disbelief was too much for the central plot to work. I disagreed with her, but I do understand how someone more aware of Dissociative Identity Disorder might not buy in. For me personally, with my background and understanding of Shyamalan’s inspirations, it worked very well.

I didn’t enjoy having the 23 identities always tossed around when we really only get to meet 6 or 7 of them. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to at least glimpse the others at some point as it was an expectation I had due the constant reference to so many personalities. But I think 23 personalities sells better than 6 or 7.

I also wasn’t too keen on the ending, and I don’t mean the twist, which I enjoyed, but the ending itself. I felt like Casey’s flashbacks didn’t go far to add much to the plot, and I feel like it was really supposed to mean something, but it didn’t. The reason why the twist worked so well is because if you don’t get it, and trust me, not everyone will, but if you don’t get it, it doesn’t take anything away from the film. For attentive viewers, the payoff is worth it.

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Split was so much fun, and I really enjoyed that all the characters, including but not limited to the ones on McAvoy’s head, were so vivid and real and helped to ground the unreal story and keep the momentum. My frustrations didn’t ruin the experience for me at all, and in fact, I rather enjoyed the film and can’t wait to see it again.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Split? What did you think? Let me know/Comment below!

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

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Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple

Screenplay: Frank Miller

102 mins. Rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use.

 

Sin City is back and at it again with four new tales of brutality and violence.

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In “Just Another Saturday Night”, Marv (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Immortals) wakes up with little memory of last night’s events and tries to piece it all back together. In “The Long Bad Night”, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Inception, The Wind Rises), a gambler on a winning streak, attempts to win it all from Senator Roark (TV’s Nashville, The Avengers), at any cost. In “A Dame to Kill For”, Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, W., Inherent Vice) gets involved with former flame Ava (Eva Green, TV’s Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale) who is in deep with the wrong people. Finally, in “Nancy’s Last Dance”, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, Stretch) is still reeling from the loss of her beloved Hartigan (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense, Vice) and wants revenge of the men who caused his death.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the original film. The story selection here is a lot of similar fare. Still, it is a gorgeous looking piece of noir cinema. “Just Another Saturday Night” is a great, albeit short, character piece that brings back fan favorite Marv, who appears a lot in this collection. “The Long Bad Night” is mostly entertaining even if it doesn’t really go anywhere, but I don’t agree with the decision to cut the story in two halves which appear separately in the film. “A Dame to Kill For” isn’t the least worthy piece in the film, but it doesn’t have the strength it should and doesn’t make the connection to the original film it should. Finally, “Nancy’s Last Dance” feels like it is missing something. All in all, these stories  are mostly entertaining, but they don’t weave like they should.

The performances are mostly awesome, with notable exceptions being Jamie Chung (Big Hero 6, 7500) taking over as Miho and Jeremy Piven (TV’s Entourage, The Pirates! Band of Misfits) as Bob. Both characters were previously played by Devon Aoki and Michael Madsen, and the originals were much better. Dennis Haysbert (TV’s 24, Dead Rising: Watchtower), on the other hand, takes over for deceased Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute and does well at giving the character something new while not forgetting the work put in by his predecessor.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For looks great and feels good, and while not being as powerful as the original film, it is still a ton of fun.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City, click here.

[Happy 10th Birthday!] Sin City (2005)

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Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood

Screenplay: Frank Miller

124 mins. Rated R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity, and sexual content including dialogue.

 

It’s pretty insane that no one decided to completely adapt a graphic novel until 2005, when co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez released Sin City, an adaptation of the series of the same name.

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Sin City tells three main stories. In “The Hard Goodbye”, we meet Marv (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Immortals), a beast of a man who has just enjoyed the best night of his life due to a beautiful blonde named Goldie. When he wakes up, she’s not breathing and he’s out for vengeance. In “The Big Fat Kill”, Dwight (Clive Owen, TV’s The Knick, Children of Men) is out to stop the dangerous drunk Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro, Snatch, Inherent Vice) and his friends who are on a bender in old town, where the women are in charge and the cops stay out of the way. In “That Yellow Bastard”, police officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense, Vice) has been paying for a crime he didn’t commit for far too long, but he has just one last mission: to protect Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, Stretch) from the vicious hands of a murdering, raping psychopath.

The look of this film is one-of-a-kind (or was, it has since been reproduced in several other stylized films), filmed practically frame-for-frame from the source material. For a film mostly on green screen, the film just oozes noir. Rodriguez took some extreme risks to get the film he wanted, including creating a scene on his dime to prove that it could be done. He even brought Frank Miller in as a co-director along with colleague and frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino as a special guest director (he helped with the score to Kill Bill in exchange).

The performances are exactly where they need to be. They are gritty and goofy with a slight hint of madness, exactly what this film needed. The whole movie just works when it really shouldn’t, and it is that accidental (or genius) combination that makes this movie just perfect.

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Sin City is a film that is exactly what it needs to be, and it has survived and only looked better in the ten years since its release. The performances and visual beauty of the film could not have existed so flawlessly under a lesser director, but Robert Rodriguez had a vision, one that he shared with original creator Frank Miller, and it shines through here.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Tammy (2014)

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Director: Ben Falcone

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates

Screenplay: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone

97 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references.

 

Melissa McCarthy (TV’s Gilmore Girls, St. Vincent) has the acting chops for both comedy and drama, yet she chooses to write comedies that just aren’t very good. Thus is the case with Tammy, her newest effort from husband-director Ben Falcone.

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In Tammy, McCarthy plays a down-on-her-luck food server who has just lost a car and a job and now decides to just leave town with her elderly grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, The Big Wedding). I know, it doesn’t make much sense. Along the way, she meets Bobby (Mark Duplass, TV’s The League, Mercy) and his father Earl (Gary Cole, Pineapple Express, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) who both take a shine to ladies. Somehow. There isn’t a whole lot of chemistry, but apparently they do. They also meet up with lesbian lovers Lenore (Kathy Bates, TV’s American Horror Story, Titanic) and Susanne (Sandra Oh, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Rabbit Hole) who are also related to Tammy but it doesn’t seem that way. Again, I must say that it isn’t a good plot.

Essentially, this story was terrible. These characters were flat and unlikable. Melissa McCarthy isn’t funny. Susan Sarandon is disappointing. Also, the ages kind of mess with you. How is Susan Sarandon the mother of Allison Janney (TV’s The West Wing, Get On Up) who is also the mother of Melissa McCarthy? Seriously, how?

Then there is the terrible chemistry or lack thereof with Mark Duplass. I mean, c’mon, there wasn’t a single moment when I believed these two.

Let’s not forget the misuse of Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls). That’s right, she is in this movie, but look fast or you’ll miss it. The same is true with Dan Aykroyd (Ghostbusters, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return).

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All in all, Ben Falcone’s absent directing of a bad screenplay between himself and wife McCarthy does nothing to make this movie anything more than a turd. Yes, I said it, a turd.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

A Long Way Down (2014)

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Director: Pascal Chaumeil

Cast: Toni Collette, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, Aaron Paul

Screenplay: Jack Thorne

96 mins. Rated R for language.

 

I like Nick Hornby. I saw him at a writer’s conference some time ago and had the opportunity to just sit and listen to him muse about life and writing. I like Nick Hornby.

A LONG WAY DOWN

I did not like A Long Way Down. I’m speaking about the film here, which is a conflicted little tale about suicide for four people. First we have Martin (Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye, The November Man), a shamed talk show host who has become a social pariah for sleeping with an underage girl. Then there’s Maureen (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense, The Boxtrolls) who struggles with being a parent for a child with special needs. We get Jess (Imogen Poots, Need for Speed, That Awkward Moment), a young girl with daddy issues and a need to prattle. Finally, there is JJ (Aaron Paul, TV’s Breaking Bad, Exodus: Gods and Kings), who has cancer. These four fail to kill themselves on New Year’s Eve when they accidentally pick the same building to jump off. Then they make a pact to stay with each other until Valentine’s Day, when they would try again.

This story is offensive even on the surface. We get characters that make light of the decision to kill themselves, and even regularly joke about it. I found none of this funny. I can stomach a lot, but it even felt like the actors were having troubles with the line reading, stemming from a bad script  by Jack Thorne (TV’s The Fades, The Scouting Book for Boys) from the novel by Nick Hornby. Poor Nick, he has his name attached to this piece of garbage. Everything after the first scene just falls short of remembrance and the plot meanders from one unimportant event to another.

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With disappointing work from pretty much everyone involved, especially Imogen Poots, who acts as though she will vomit if she can’t get her line out right now, and an ending that you see coming a mile away, A Long Way Down is a dreadful piece of dreck that belongs in a furnace somewhere. Haven’t read the book, but I can bet it is streets ahead.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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