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“The Wolfman”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Well, it’s only February and I think we already have a front runner for next year’s Death Coach Award. The Wolfman is a remake of the 1941, Lon Chaey Jr. original classic The Wolf Man, only this version will never be able to stand the test of time. Universal Studios keeps trying to remake their classic monster films with all the new technology of modern filmmaking, but they never seem to be able to get it quite right. I think their biggest mistake is trying to mix this grand Jayne Austin type of setting, with a classic horror story. They think it highlights the romantic undertones of the monster movie’s original classic story, but all it really does is set-up the movie for failure. I understand that these films are based on classic literature, but they’re also the original horror films, and should be treated as such. Just once, I would love to see how one of these classic monster movies would look if they had used a Friday the 13th approach to the filmmaking. I wouldn’t want them to be hokey. I just would like to see a monster movie try and be scary for once. You don’t have to lose the romance or Victorian setting, just focus more on the monster. The original movies were scary for their time. And in this day and age, it does take more to scare us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to make one of these classic tales scary. The studios should save their money, by not casting Oscar Award winning actors, or not overly focusing on the film’s cinematography, and just try to make a scary movie that will do its predecessor proud for once. I want to see someone like Rob Zombie remake one of these films. Hollywood can’t seem to wait to remake the modern classic horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or the Friday the 13th franchisees, and those usually turnout to be really good remakes. But for some reason, when it comes to the true classics, it never seems to cross their minds to have someone like John Carpenter remake The Wolf Man. Why is that?

Okay, so I guess at this point you can tell I didn’t really enjoy The Wolfman. Actually, I hated it! This movie was so long winded, and pretentious, that it couldn’t even die right. I’m not kidding. There is a death scene in this movie that is so laughable, that if you do go to see this in the theatres, you’ll be truly surrounded by the audience’s laughter during the scene. The other thing that totally drove me crazy was waiting for the Wolfman to start playing basketball, or maybe even try to get a keg of beer. Look, I give the filmmakers credit for not making the Wolfman a giant wolf, and trying to keep the classic Lon Chaney Jr. man-wolf look, but the last time we, as film goers, saw this type of werewolf was when Michael J. Fox was in Teen Wolf. I realize that making this type of werewolf work in this day and age is hard, but that was their job on this film, making it work. And, if they couldn’t make it work, then they shouldn’t make the movie! At no point during this movie, should I be thinking about Michael J. Fox and his keg of beer, but I did. Quite a bit actually, and I’m sorry but that ruins the scariness of this movie right there. That’s not to say that they couldn’t have made it work. Rick Baker did an outstanding job on the make-up of the Wolfman, as always. But, they just didn’t utilize how scary they could make this movie. If the Wolfman had been jumping out of the shadows and mutilating people more, I might have found myself a little bit more immersed in this film. Instead, I just found myself waiting for a big choreographed prom dance at the end of the film. Do yourself a favor, and skip it. Rent Lon Chaney Jr.’s The Wolf Man. Or if you haven’t seen it, and that would be a huge crime, get An American Werewolf in London. Hell, I would even suggest watching one of my all-time favorites, Monster Squad before this one, because this version of the Wolfman definitely has no nards!

Rating:


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“Trick ‘r Treat”
a review by Darby O’Gill

It’s Halloween night, a night full of tricks and treats. Well, mostly tricks. But, the real treat is finally getting Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat released. I know it’s not the theatrical release we were all hoping for, but it is finally out on DVD. In the spirit of Creepshow, Trick ‘r Treat takes four tales from one Halloween night and intertwines them into one fantastic story. It’s like Robert Altman and Wes Craven had a baby, and named it Trick ‘r Treat. Take a high school principal moonlighting as serial killer, a young woman searching for the perfect date, a childish prank that ends with disastrous consequences, and an old man that learns the true meaning of trick-or –treat, and what you have is one hell of a ride. Trick ‘r Treat was made in 2007, and spent two years just trying to get into theatres. It was receiving rave reviews at all the horror festivals, but for some reason Warner Brothers just didn’t believe in it enough to put it in theatres. It’s sad really. Great movies like this have to fight to see the light of day, but pieces of shit like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, have no problem finding their way into theatres. You know, there was another little horror film that was made in 2007 that couldn’t seem to find distribution. It was a little movie called Paranormal Activity. Ever hear of it? Maybe this will finally make Hollywood wake up. Most likely not, but it would be nice if other little movies like these would finally be given the chance they deserve, and not have to fight for two years just to see the light of day. I know. I know. It’s never going to happen. But, let’s get back to subject at hand. Trick ‘r Treat is a must see. With an amazing story, some brilliant cinematography, and fantastic performances, Trick ‘r Treat is a guaranteed Halloween classic. Oh, I haven’t even mentioned little Sam, the trick-or-treater demon that oversees the night’s events. He is a greatly welcomed addition to the Freddy and Jason’s of the horror community. I really hope they make more of these. I can’t wait to see Trick ‘r Treat 2! I just hope next time it’ll be in theatres on Halloween night, and not just a straight to DVD blow-off. Warner Brothers is sitting on a goldmine. They could make a new Trick ‘r Treat movie every year like the Saw franchise, but I guess we’ll just have to wait for them to realize that on their own. Until then, we’ll just have to keep fighting the good fight.

Rating:
5 Little People


DVD Special Features:

Sadly, that’s it. One bonus feature, if you can call it that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to see the animation short that became this movie, but come on! This movie had an incredible journey for two years, and you’re not going to do a commentary track for the feature film?! How about some behind the scenes footage, or maybe some deleted scenes? Hell, I’d be happy with even a trailer at this point! My only guess is that Warner Brothers was really on the fence about putting it in theatres, but at the last minute pushed it to DVD, and wanted to get it out before Halloween. If that is the case, we’ll hopefully get a Special Edition DVD at some point, but until then it’ just sad.

DVD Special Features Rating:
1 Little People


Tokyo!
a review by Darby O’Gill

In the spirit of Four Rooms and Paris, Je T’aime comes Tokyo! a collection of three short films about Tokyo, as told by three visionary directors, Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-Ho. We’re going to take a look at the three films individually, and then rate the project as a whole.

First we have “Interior Design” by New York based French director Michel Gondry. Gondry based his short on a graphic novel by Gabrielle Bell, called “Cecil and Jordan in New York.” In Gondry’s version, it’s the story of a young couple moving to Tokyo, and crashing at a friend’s flat as they look for one of their own. Hiroko, played by Ayako Fujitani, was the more together of the couple, but seems to find herself being the less than useful one in Tokyo. As days turn into weeks, Hiroko finds herself more and more out of place. Until one day a strange event leads her to find her place in the world. All the stories in this collection are that of surrealism, but Gondry’s is definitely the most surreal. Wonderfully shot, and with an amazing special effect shot you would only come to expect from Michel Gondry.

Next we have “Merde” by French director Leos Carax. Now I have to say this one surprised me. Not the short itself, but the fact that it wasn’t directed by Bong Joon-Ho. I honestly watched this entire short thinking it was Joon-Ho, and even thought I was seeing signs of his film style throughout. Wow. It’s not Bong Joon-Ho, but it is Leos Carax’s short, and quite simply the best of the collection. It’s the story of a “creature,” or more like a homeless full grown leprechaun, that crawls out of the sewers and wreaks havoc on the streets of Tokyo. A frightened Tokyo reports various sightings of the creature on the news and even holds a bizarre trial for the creature. I mean, you can see why I thought it was Joon-Ho: a creature that lives in the sewer, has a smoky white eye, spreads horror across Tokyo via newscasts, and is a plot heavily laced with offbeat humor. This short is fantastic! The cinematography is amazing and the performance of Denis Lavant as the creature is purely stellar. “Merde” is anything but shit. I would love to see more of this story some day.

And now, sadly, we have to talk about the last short in this collection, “Shaking Tokyo,” by South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho. I honestly have to say, that I was really looking forward to this director’s piece. The Host was an amazing film that I’m so glad I heard about in time to be able to see it when it opened in theatres, and was more than excited to see something new from its director Bong Joon-Ho. I just wish it was “Merde” and not “Shaking Tokyo.” The story in “Shaking Tokyo,” is that of a man that is a shut-in that has shut himself out of the outside world for the last ten years, but it’s in the eleventh year that his world crashes down around him. I’ve got to say this story is really weak. It wants to be grand; but it’s a short, and doesn’t have the time to take its time. It also keeps the viewer in the dark, which is the case in all three of these stories. But, in “Shaking Tokyo” it keeps you in the dark, and never really lets you know what the hell is going on. Joon-Ho has an amazing sense of the characters in his films, and this is no different. His characters don’t have to say a word, and yet just looking at them through his lens seems to speak a thousand words. I only wish the story had more time, to make it worth telling. It’s just sad that the movie has to end its collection with this short. It might have been better off in the middle of the film.

Rating:

3.5 Little People


DVD Special Features:

  • Making of “Interior Design”
  • Making of “Merde”
  • Making of “Shaking Tokyo”
  • Director Interviews
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailer

The “Making of” featurettes are outstanding! No, truly. They’re even longer than the short films themselves. Each one gives you an amazing look into the very distinct directing style of each visionary director. Gondry likes to keep the film rolling. By doing so he feels it doesn’t let the actors get out of the moment. It’s quite ingenious really, because when a film crew cuts, they stop down for a good ten or twenty minutes. Hair and make-up step in, the lighting team checks lights, and actors stop being their characters. This concept is new to the “Tokyo!” actors working on “Interior Design,” and it takes a little while to warm-up to the idea of not cutting at the end of a take. Also, during the behind the scenes interview with Ayumi Ito, it sounds like someone’s having sex in the background, but it’s just the interviewer. It took me a few minutes to figure out. She should just quietly listen to what the actors have to say.

When it comes to Leos Carax, I was amazed to find out that he shot the first street scene at least, without a permit and in a total gorilla filmmaking style. In his “Making of,” we watch the cast and crew rehearse, step by step, the pacing of the scene off site. It’s truly filmmaking at its best. Also, watching Carax and Lavant develop the character of the creature is fantastic. Which brings us once again to Bong Joon-Ho, but this time it’s good news. His “Making of” finally let us in on what he was trying to say. I think the real downfall of his short is that he’s not the type of director that can be rushed or given a time restraint. I’ve never seen a director pay more attention to the timing of a shot and his actors, almost to a fault. But it’s clear that is what makes his filmmaking so unique. Sadly, this project just doesn’t lend itself to that style of filmmaking. The one saving grace is that in the “Director Interviews,” it seemed clear, to me that is, that even Joon-Ho wasn’t pleased with the outcome of his short. Seeing him talk about what he was trying to do in the short definitely helps you see the short in a different light; but it still doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t work.

DVD Special Feature Rating:

4 Little People



“The Ugly Truth”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Well, The Ugly Truth is just that. I got to tell you, I had no interest in seeing this movie, but a press screening is a free screening. So for the sake of being a good journalist, I went. I would like to say, I was pleasantly surprised. However, this was exactly the train wreck I was expecting. What I wasn’t really expecting was the rude crudeness of the film. This is the American Pie of chick flicks. Wait! Don’t misunderstand that statement. I’m not saying this movie is good! What I’m trying to say is that this chick flick relies on dick and fart jokes, or in this case vagina and fart jokes, to get the laughs. It reminds me of the Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate movie, The Sweetest Thing, only that movie worked a little better than this.


Does it sound bad, that the one thing that I did like in this movie was the lighting? I really found myself noticing the colors and look of the film. The film itself however, is the ever transparent storyline of Abby, played by former American sweetheart, Katherine Heigl, a morning television producer in Sacramento whose show is struggling in the ratings. The obvious solution is hiring Gerard Butler’s character Mike, a loud mouth late-night public access channel host that tells lovesick women that they know nothing of what men want. Can any of you guess the name of his show? Transparent as tracing paper, that’s right, it’s The Ugly Truth. It took three people to write this script. Amazing! Now believe it or not, Abby and Mike hate each other… I know! You really don’t see any of this stuff coming. But you know what this story really needs? I know. How about a little “Cyrano De Bergerac” storyline to spice it up? But wait, if Abby uses Mike to help her get a man, doesn’t that mean that they will ultimately realize that they are really in love with each other? Don’t be silly. A movie could never be that obvious… Oh, I’m sorry. I’m being told it can be that obvious. It’s painful; it really is. The jokes and situations in this film are so forced, you could probably press charges. It really wants to be this hybrid of a girl’s night out flick with a manly edge. But, what you get is just a sad desperate little movie trying to fit in. Now I think I’m laying it on a little thick. There are a few moments in this film that do work. The chemistry between Heigl and Butler does work to some degree, but I think it’s more clear that Hollywood believes they have found themselves a Mel Gibson replacement in Gerard Butler, and they might very well have. Katherine Heigl’s charm shines through at times, but it’s nothing new, and it’s really not enough in the end. I think this movie will most likely do well. I think some ladies out there will enjoy having a raunchy chick flick to drag their men to. But, most of them will most likely be teens, which doesn’t make sense because with an “R rating” they shouldn’t be able to get in. Well, now that I think of it, maybe it won’t do so well after all. I mean, what with the majority of people seeing the movie being teenage girls that have to sneak in to see it; no one will really be buying movie tickets. Well that makes me feel a little better.

Rating:

2 Little People


“Public Enemies”
a review by Darby O’Gill

The only public enemy here, is the film itself. Seriously, this movie is going to piss off a lot of people. Wayne and I went to an advanced screening a few months back and we both thought it was a train wreck. Last month I saw a trailer for “Public Enemies” and was like, that looks good… oh wait, but I’ve already seen it and it sucked. I’m telling you Universal got the Leonardo Da Vinci of movie trailers to cut this trailer. And because of that, people who’ve seen the trailer and go to see the movie that’s in that trailer, are going to be really pissed when they find out they just bought a ticket to a slow, boring three hour snooze-fest. If I hadn’t already seen the film and only saw the trailer, I too would be looking forward to this movie. The sad truth is I have seen it and wouldn’t wish it on any of you, hence this review.

Okay, lets get down to it. You would think a movie starring Johnny Depp about John Dillinger, would be a sure bet, but sadly you’d be wrong. Johnny Depp gives an outstanding performance as Dillinger. He brilliantly plays Dillinger as an everyman. His intelligence, charisma, and wit just oozes off the screen. It just makes you want the movie to be that much better. Marion Cotillard’s performance opposite Depp is absolutely stellar. Actually the problem with this film doesn’t lye within the performances, however it’s within it’s vision, or lack there of. Here’s the biggest problem, the story is there, it’s just suffocated by the slow pace of the film. Michael Mann is always a hit or miss director. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that would call themselves a true Michael Mann fan, because no one likes all of his films. It’s usually a 50/50 mix, at best. While you’re watching this film, you’ll think that’s cool, let’s have more like that, but nope that is quickly replaced with this. Here are some examples: When Dillinger breaks his crew out of prison at the beginning, you think, “Wow this is going to be amazing!” But wait, we’re going to hit the breaks and completely change the feel of the movie. Or when Dillinger is robbing a bank and telling people he’s not there for their money. Hells yeah! John Dillinger is the modern day Robin Hood… sort of? He doesn’t really give to the poor, but he definitely doesn’t steal from them, only the money they’ve already put in the bank. The shoot out and car chase in the woods is amazing and makes you think the third act is going to turn around, but… oh, Michael Mann, you’ve got me again. You’ll also have plenty of time to notice these things, what with the nearly three hour running time. The cinematography of Dante Spinotti all though outstanding, gives the film the look of something grander than it is.

Now to be fair, the film could have changed since the cut I watched, but in order to make it better they would have had to reshoot the whole film, which I know they could not have done. I for one am not willing to sit through it again to find out. If I’m wrong, and the “Public Enemies” you see is fantastic, please leave comments and tell me what you liked about it. If it’s something I didn’t see, I’ll gladly go see it again. I would really like this movie to be good, but until then…

Director’s Cut Rating:

2 Little People



==================== UPDATE ====================


Being a man of my word, the other day I went to another screening of Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” This time it was the theatrical cut. The first screening I attended was a test screening, and the running time was easily three hours long. The theatrical cut is just over two hours. I’ve got to say there was a very noticeable difference in the movie’s pacing for the first half of the film. In my earlier review, I mentioned the stop and go pace of the movie really taking you out of the film, just as you were starting to get into it. However in this version, the story just keeps moving, and really improves the first half of the firm. You’ll notice that I keep saying, the first half of the film. That’s because once we get to the second half Mann still slams on the breaks, and gives you nothing but time to think about how long you’ve been watching this movie. For me, it just gave me time to realize I’ve done this twice already. I still stand by my first review, but I will say this cut is just a wee bit better, and ultimately just leaves you still wanting a better movie.

Theatrical Cut Rating:

2.5 Little People