Tusk (2014)

My podcast Talking Stars is recording an episode on Tusk in October. Here are some of the reasons I love this movie the way I do.

Tusk (2014)
R | 1h 42min | Comedy, Drama, Horror | 19 September 2014 (USA)

A brash and arrogant podcaster gets more than he bargained for when he travels to Canada to interview a mysterious recluse… who has a rather disturbing fondness for walruses.
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Stars: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment

I’ve talked about this film for well over a year but have as yet to review it on my blog. Here goes:

Kevin Smith has carved out an etched name for himself in the film world. Most film students will tell you about Clerks, his cult fame status film about some deadbeats who keep a store staffed, albeit half-aware. We all worked those types of jobs and/or some still do so it’s highly relate-able. Besides that, there is a undefinable quality to it people can only attribute to Kevin Smith as director. Red State is another film that people are ready to line up and give blood for. His influence on film is undeniable in my mind. He tried horror with Tusk and he went way out at that. It’s unlike any horror you’ll see in that it molds disgusting, repellent body horror images with sarcasm and flippant comedy. But there is a third element that doesn’t get discussed a whole lot and that is the literary theme of the sea and its dark foreboding nature toward humans. It’s a bit like Jaws in that way, without a shark.

Justin Long plays Wallace, a despicable podcaster who gathers followers by exploiting outrageous stories. The stories seem to involve the misfortune, maiming, and even death of his subjects. He cheats on his beautiful and kind-hearted girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) and overall he is an asshole, and that’s what he’s meant to be.

Michael Parks plays Howard Howe, a retired Navy seaman who lives in a mysterious house and provides Wallace with what was to be one of his biggest exclusives yet. But alas, things are not always what they appear to be. Howe is obsessed with surgically creating walruses from living people and that’s the “guts” of Tusk.

This movie scared the hell out of me when I saw it in 2016. It stuck with me and I have seen it twice since. People either love or hate this film. I happen to fall into the former category. I love the horror and I love the comedy. Make no mistake, they exist at different parts of the film and much of it is no laughing matter. The idea of being abducted and having your body destroyed that way is chilling. At the same time, we have Kevin Smith comedy throughout reminding us of what this is about.

At time of writing this, my podcast Talking Stars is planning to record an episode on Tusk and body horror. I hope you can tune in. Watch the site for more details. After 72 episodes, I’ve never been this eager to do an episode. If you’d like to be on it, let me know.

10/10

Scouting for Podcast Guests – The Snowman Preview (Crime Thrillers)

Hi readers. We’re looking for some people to be on our show this week. Interested? Please let me know.

Dead Man’s Shoes

Revenge films can really be cathartic. I think it gets to our mortal core the same way some Shakespearean plays do. A big thanks to Emma and her excellent review that got me curious.

“God will forgive them. He’ll forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I can’t live with that.” Richard

Dead Man’s Shoes (2015)
Cast
Paddy Considine

as Richard

Gary Stretch

as Sonny

Toby Kebbell

as Anthony

Directed by
Shane Meadows
Written by
Paddy Considine, Shane Meadows, Paul Fraser
Other Info

Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated R
1h 30min

Who hasn’t been wronged and dreamt of getting the perpetrator back? I think it’s essential human nature to enjoy a good revenge film. This is one of those. Richard is the elder brother of Anthony who is bullied and derided by a group of guys in the neighborhood. When Richard is away in the service, the jeering and mistreatment becomes more severe. This is revealed to the audience in flashbacks.

I like the rawness of this film. It was made on a shoestring budget and the actors are not well known in the US as far as I can tell. Paddy Constatine (Richard) has some work under his belt. It’s a film released in the UK so the cast may be more famous there. We find that Richard has developed skills akin to a mercenary fight while in the service. This is ample reason for the group who taunted and maimed to worry. Richard weaves his revenge slowly. I am reminded of the aphorism: “The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine.”

This is a film to see that will provide all sorts of discussion questions. After watching it, make sure you have time to get tea or coffee. It has a twist at the end that may not make sense at first and I certainly did not see it coming. It’s no Disney ending by any means. I think it’s well written and well made however, possibly more eloquent than Disney could ever make a revenge film.

I won’t watch this one twice, it’s a bit disturbing. Watching it once is a must for all movie fans but I think you’d have to be a bit twisted to watch this a second time. When you recover from a tidal wave do you hope for the next? There are many things here left open-ended about the perpetrators and even Richard himself. I think we are meant to play with the scenes in our head to put them into a sensible context. At the beginning we see Richard and Anthony together, in the middle we don’t and at the end there is a revelation altogether different about the time and what has happened since Richard left for the military.

There are some of the most heinous scenes in this. It wasn’t as bad as the “Snowtown Murders” but pretty close. Once threat scene is probably the most intense I’ve ever seen. Richard threatens Sonny, one of the perpetrators. The movie has some great scenes and that one is one of the best in my opinion. I pulled one star off because there could have been more character development and the time jumping around was a bit confusing for me. Other than that, this is among the best revenge films I’ve seen. I recommend it.

It (2017)

It (2017)
R | 2h 15min | Drama, Horror | 8 September 2017 (USA)

A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writers: Chase Palmer (screenplay), Cary Fukunaga (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Stars: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard

Hear my audio review at the player below:
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The director is Andy Muschietti. I did enjoy his work on Mama. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to catapult his name out of obscurity. Now, he has done it with his adaptation of It. There are excellent directing choices at every turn. He had a big job on his hands, selling this Stephen King novel to a new generation. Too much horror and you disrespect them, too much camaraderie coming of age and you bore them. I did miss the spiders. They could have done more with the way the fear manifests.

Bill Skarsgård portrayed a great It. He was scary and unyielding to the bitter end. The rest of the actors were top notch as well. They worked together to tell this story which is about 1/3 a “buddy” coming-of-age film and 2/3 horror and thriller. I think making that part a priority is what made this film so successful. It’s doing unbelievably well at the box office and it deserves as much. Too bad its over the ratings edge as an R film. I think kids 10-17 would enjoy this just as much. There are also some great lessons about love and living with respect toward others. Apparently, they are planning a chapter 2 as well at some point. I’ll hope to catch it.

9/10

Home Again (2017)

Home Again (2017)
PG-13 | 1h 37min | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 8 September 2017 (USA)

Life for a single mom in Los Angeles takes an unexpected turn when she allows three young guys to move in with her.
Director: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Writer: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Stars: Nat Wolff, Reese Witherspoon, Lake Bell

The director here is a first timer. While it is clear to apprehend some of her lively and positive messages about women and love, all characters are too flat for what this is. The movie watches more like a Hallmark channel movie than a full fledged wide release.

Reese Witherspoon delivers the best performance but it’s probably the worst of her career. It isn’t from any failure at acting. It is the script. A couple times, especially at the end, I felt I was watching an episode of Leave it to Beaver. The rest of the cast need not be mentioned, they are lifeless. Again, the script is mostly to blame. I think the three young men are just so excited to be in film with Witherspoon that they are led by their wiggles and this is served as the audience’s exquisite torture.

It boggles my mind why one of the highest paid and esteemed actresses on earth would accept such a role. There are no real characters, there is no plot or conflict and the solution is sort of a Leave it to Beaver one at that. We need great rom coms but not like this. Do not waste your time or money on this film.

1/10

Zootopia

Disney has made a fun, innovative, colorful, and well scripted film here. Don’t let the little rabbit make you think of “HOP,” it’s a ton better than that. Plus, there’s a fox voiced by Jason Bateman so right there you are already out of the “HOP” solar system.

Zootopia (2016)
Cast
Ginnifer Goodwin

as Judy Hopps

Jason Bateman

as Nick Wilde

Idris Elba

as Chief Bogo

Directed by
Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush

 

Written by
Jared Bush

 

Genre, Rating, Length, etc.

Animation, Action, Adventure
Rated PG
1h 48min

Of course I give this film 5 stars, a perfect score. I’d give it more but I don’t want to appear as if I’m gushing. And this over a rabbit and a fox nonetheless. Well, actually there are a whole zoo of animals, hence the title. While we’re on the subject of the film’s name, I can’t help but wonder it this is Disney’s way of describing the Animal Kingdom theme park history. Actually I mean a fictional history like they did with the films “Tomorrowland” and “The Haunted Mansion.”

It’s a story of a police cadet that gets an assignment in Zootopia, the Los Angeles of cartoon cities. This police officer is a small female rabbit with not much for brawn but she makes up for it in enthusiasm. Through a strange course of events, she befriends a crooked fox and the two have adventures. They are the only ones who can stop a crooked plan to zombify the citizens.

There is a lot here and all of it is wonderful. I loved the elephant ice cream clerk and fox’s “baby” that turns out to be a deep voiced pygmy fox, a partner in crime. The critics are loving this film and so am I. I love the voice actors. Jason Bateman should get an Oscar, his fox character is pure genius. I recommend this film for any age.

Swingers (1996) – Audio Review

“Swingers” is a comedy from the 90’s that has gained an almost cultic following. Listen to me talk about it. This is a recent post over at my podcast “The DRP.”

The 90’s produced a lot of cult type comedies. With Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn at the helm, Swingers ruled that category for me! I’f you’ve ever labored at dating without success, this one is for you! This is an audio review from my podcast The DRP. Enjoy!

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Hey if you liked this episode I have lots more like it on the movies I review at the DRP! Check it out.

Cactus Flower

As you look into the history and legacy of this film, you see it’s undeniable influence on motion pictures. It’s very well written and the acting is superb.
Title: Cactus Flower
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Comedy, Romance
MPAA Rating: M
Year: 1969
Director: Gene Saks, known for “The Odd Couple”
Top Billed Cast: Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn
Brief Synopsis: A dysfunctional romance gives way to an unexpected love affair for the couple with other people.

Goldie Hawn looks to be about 20 years old. Walter Matthau’s character ought to be slapped for having an affair with her. Of course, I’m joking. The characters weave together in this film like mixing paints, The ending is unexpected, somewhat, my wife saw it coming. If they had more romantic comedies like these, I think there’d be more happy couples in the world. I highly recommend this one 100% just like the critics at Rotten Tomatoes do.

Labor Day (2013)

Despite a largely unexplained strangeness of mother and son, this captor/captive romance presents itself well as a story and in the end leaves the impression of something great.

Labor Day (2013)
PG-13 | 1h 51min | Drama, Romance | 31 January 2014 (USA)

Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.
Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Jason Reitman (screenplay), Joyce Maynard (based on the novel by)
Stars: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith

Director Jason Reitman is a Canadian. He’s known for Up in the Air, Juno, and Thank You for not Smoking. Labor Day would seem to be the most serious drama he’s done yet, although all the films have serious topics.

I really liked this film because it showed a kidnapping where the criminal actually gave something to the victims. They argue later it was a valuable experience, maybe the most valuable of their lives. It’s a paradigm shift. I don’t know if I would call it a romance however.

The mother is odd with her son. I think he takes a lot of her depression on himself and he’s more or less her caretaker emotionally. When this new dark figure takes them both hostage it seems like a terrible crime about to happen but they seem to learn from him, it is a symbiotic relationship. That’s what makes this story a bit odd but no less enjoyable than any of the director’s best films. I would have liked to have seen the mother and son’s characters and past fleshed out a lot more.

While not a straight ahead romance, it has some romance features. I would recommend it as a compelling drama and somewhat of a romance.

8/10

The Love Bug

There are formulas that work in movies. Walt Disney was always looking for the next hit. “The Love Bug” is a family film that carries its own weight off the race track!
Title: The Love Bug
Number of times I’ve seen it: Probably a dozen
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: G
Year: 1969
Director: George A. Romero
Top Billed Cast: Dean Jones, Michele Lee, David Tomlinson
Brief Synopsis: A washed up race car driver returns with the help of a supernatural VW.

I remember the warm feeling I had seeing this in the theater around 1977. It is a 1969 release that played over and over for years in theaters, always selling plentiful tickets. Who can resist when Herbie honks his horn and saves the scene. The actors are top notch as well. It’s no wonder there were so many sequels. “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” is another one I enjoyed in my youth. The cliche “They don’t make them like they used to” comes to mind. I had fun watching this most recently at age 46: the same age of the movie!