Jan
19

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: PREDESTINATION

Ethan Hawke warps the time-lines in PREDESTINATION.

Ethan Hawke warps the time-lines in PREDESTINATION.

It’s January Mysteries time! Usually it’s no secret why a film gets given a January release date. The month’s largely a dumping ground, a catch-all for films that, for one reason or another, have been found wanting. But occasionally a film lands in the month that, from all on-screen evidence, should have received better treatment. Hence, the mystery.

Such is the case with PREDESTINATION, a science fiction tale based on Robert Heinlein’s classic, time paradox story, All You Zombies, and starring Ethan Hawke as a time-travelling cop going undercover as a bartender for a crucial recruitment mission. Despite a few narrative bumps — including a not-all-that necessary b-plot about a mad bomber — the film, directed by the twin Spierig Brothers, is handsomely mounted and nicely told. So what got the film shunted to the armpit of the release year? More, why didn’t anyone think it deserved better than the handful of theaters it was released to? I cannot explain, but I can tell you why I think the distributors in this case were wrong-wrong-wrongedy-wrong, and I do in my latest review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the link to download.

Jan
09

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: INTO THE WOODS

Atmosphere doesn't completely make up for a filmic outlook in INTO THE WOODS, but it helps lots.

Atmosphere doesn’t completely make up for a filmic outlook in INTO THE WOODS, but it helps lots.

Loyalty. It’s a quality much to be desired, in how we treat our loved ones, the way we deal with our co-workers, in how those entrusted with the public welfare respect their responsibilities (we’re looking at you, Congress). And there’s a lot to be said for loyalty when it comes to adapting a film from another source, be it a novel, a play, or a musical. But it can be impediment as well, especially when loyalty to the original material gets in the way of letting a filmmaker do what the medium is best suited for.

All told, Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s INTO THE WOODS is a beautiful, smart, and engaging experience, occasionally marred by a decision to adhere to what played on the stage as opposed to what might work on-screen. I explore the issue in my review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the link to download.

 

Dec
26

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES & SONG OF THE SEA

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

We haven’t actually clocked it, but it does seem there’s as much of this guy in THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES as there is actual hobbit.

There’s a bit of OCD that goes along with genre film fandom — once you’ve signed on to a franchise, you’re kind-of obligated to follow it wherever it will take you, for good or ill. Thus the sullen air hanging over screenings of REVENGE OF THE SITH or any of the Wolverine spin-offs — it really does sap the energy out of an auditorium when attendance is more dutiful than enthusiastic.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMS is the final installment of Peter Jackson’s latest J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, and to say it’s long-awaited is to say that fans of fantasy have been eager to get this bloated, unnecessary epic over with and move on to better things. I give my thoughts on how Jackson wraps up this prequel tale in my review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF, and also give my verdict on the much more engaging, Irish animated fantasy, SONG OF THE SEA. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the link to download.

Dec
15

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: THE BEAST & IMMORAL TALES

The Beast (1975)

No! Bad dog! Very, VERY bad dog! Heel! Heel! He… Uhhhn… Ohhhh… G-good… doggy?

Kirk Cameron can kid himself, but these are the films that will truly save Christmas. Just in time to provide a respite for anyone sick of all that Holly-Jolly, IFC is releasing a pair of notorious erotic classics to the cinema. Walerian Borowczyk’s THE BEAST and IMMORAL TALES had their original debuts in the ’70’s, both films reveling in a then-new-found freedom to explore aspects of sexuality previously considered taboo — in the case of the titles at hand, that includes sacrilege, incest, and bestiality (there, satisfied?). Some of that scandalous power remains, some has faded, but as my review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF reveals, both films remain intriguing exposés of the lengths to which unbridled human passion will go… and are likely to make you feel a little funny in the pants. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the link to download.

Dec
13

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Annnnd, action! I said, action! Jennifer, the camera’s rolling now, you can start acting. Oh? Uh, okay then. Just… go on, I guess.

Usually, when you play “Whatever Happened To…?” it’s with some washed-up celebrity. You track the downward career spiral of a Max Baer Jr, a Johnny Whittaker, a Kim Kardashian (not yet, but one day, one day), and get a concentrated lesson in the impermanence of fame. Interesting thing, though: You can play the game with fictional characters as well, and learn something about corporate decision making in the modern-day film industry. Take, for instance, Katniss Everdeen, the smart, courageous protagonist of THE HUNGER GAMES franchise. Whatever happened to her? Well, short answer: According to THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1, nothing good. The longer answer is in my review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF, and can be heard by clicking on the player.

Nov
20

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD

An animated classic thirty years in the making gets its US debut in THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD.

An animated classic thirty years in the making gets its US debut in THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD.

If you’ve been going through the vast collection of films that have lapsed into the pubic domain — and you probably have, because who can afford entertainment otherwise? — you’ve likely stumbled upon an animated feature called, The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird, a strange little thing with voices by such luminaries as Peter Ustinov, Claire Bloom, and Denholm Elliott. Whether you watched it all the way through or just paused long enough to think, Huhn, what’s this all about?, it turns out that the film, which has been knocking around since the 1950’s, is just the tip of a visionary iceberg that was taken away from its creators, the director Paul Grimaut and the poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert, and released unfinished without their permission. It took some thirty years to complete the project, and another thirty-odd years for it to get its U.S. release. Now, under the title The King and the Mockingbird, the film is making its way into theaters this Friday, and kid, it was well worth the wait. I go a bit into the film’s history and why this fractured fairy tale deserves its place among the ranks of animation classics in my review for Jim Freund’s Hour of the Wolf. Plus: My thoughts on the Studio Ghibli documentary, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness. Click on the player to hear the segment.

Nov
13

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: INTERSTELLAR

When Planting Your Blanket and Umbrella, Please Remember About High Tide: The Search for Earth 2 Commences in INTERSTELLAR.

When planting your blanket and umbrella, please remember about high tide: The search for Earth 2 commences in INTERSTELLAR.

Here’s the dilemma: I saw Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey when I was twelve years old, and to say it was a formative experience is an understatement. The film fundamentally changed the way I thought about science fiction, narrative story-telling, and the nature of film itself. Not that I was cognizant of all of that at the time — I was twelve fer chrissake — but something in that film set the switch that eventually led to the obsessive film nerd you see before you today.

So when Christopher Nolan lards copious references to that most hallowed of space epics throughout his own epically-proportioned Interstellar — robots that look like monoliths; resonant organ chords that echo the last few seconds of Also Sprach Zarathustra, no less than two, maybe even three, stargate-like experiences, etc, etc. — it’s hard not to regard it as not so much heartfelt homage as a throwing down of the gauntlet. I was able to work my way around that impulse, and my review of the film for Jim Freund’s Hour of the Wolf is able to regard the project for what it is, as well as what it aspires to. Click on the player to hear the review.

Nov
09

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: LFO

Patrik Karlson gets a taste of unbounded power in LFO.

Patrik Karlson gets a taste of unbounded power in LFO.

Not all megalomaniacs are preening, medal-bedecked-uniform-wearing, sociopathic assholes. Sometimes they’re mousy, tatty, middle-class husbands with a basement full of electronic equipment and a murderous secret to hide. In LFO, Patrick Karlson plays an amateur scientist who discovers a sonic thrum that renders people susceptible to whatever suggestions cross his warped little mind. Bad news for the couple who have just moved in next door and who become the prime subjects of his experiments, worse news maybe for the world when the guy’s ambitions grow beyond enchanting the beautiful young wife into his bed. Click on the player below to hear my review for Jim Freund’s Hour of the Wolf.

Oct
31

Director Alexandre Aja on HORNS: The CFQ Interview

Daniel Radcliffe moves past his wizardly ways in HORNS.

Daniel Radcliffe moves past his wizardly ways in HORNS.

A break from the standard Halloween fare of mad slashers and paranormal infestations, the new film HORNS brings a decidedly hometown slant to an examination of the good and evil that lives in all of us. Daniel Radcliffe plays Ig, a man (yes, man — we’re a long way from Hogwart’s) whose status within his small town after he’s accused of murdering his girlfriend isn’t at all helped once he starts growing a very Satanic pair of horns on his head. That these new appendages also compel people to confess their darkest desires and allow Ig to control their actions could be the double-edged sword that indicts him for his sins, or helps him find his love’s true murderer.

Director Alexandre Aja takes the wry intensity he brought to such projects as the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and PIRHANA 3D, and turns it to a more Stephen Kingesque pallet with HORNS — not surprising, since the original novel was written by King’s son, Joe Hill. I got a chance to talk with Aja about his decision to steer his style in a new direction, working with Radcliffe, and more in this latest podcast. Click on the player to hear the show.

Oct
06

Coca-Cola’s Lesson in Human Values Inspires Tears, Makes You Thirsty (Sponsored Video)

Yeah, this spot from one of Coca-Cola’s overseas branches (not sure which — Singapore? They’re very big on outreach over there) pushes the heartwarming button hard, and makes a certain fizzy, refreshing drink the keystone to its lesson, but at least it’s in the service of motivating better connection between fellow human beings, so I’m willing to let my stone-like heart thaw a bit if that’s what it takes. Besides, I’m 98% Coca-Cola anyway, so what am I griping about? Check the video out below.

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