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.

Sep
13

A TALKING CAT!?! – Temple of Bad

An all-star cast (we're sure there are some stars in there somewhere) pretend to be impressed with a commonplace feline who couldn't care less in A TALKING CAT!?!

An all-star cast (we’re sure there are some stars in there somewhere) pretend to be impressed with a commonplace feline who couldn’t care less in A TALKING CAT!?!

We have to be clear about this: There are bad movies; there are reprehensible movies; there are movies that make you consider taking out a contract on the entire DGA, just to be sure that never in the future of humankind will there be a chance that such an affront to common decency could again be committed. And then there are films that are a strangely exhilarating kind of awful, the kind that actually restore your faith in the perverse diversity of the human race, that re-instill your wonder in the awesome chaos of the universe, that, as the slogan for Temple of Bad has it, are truly a religious experience. Such a film is A TALKING CAT!?! A putative family comedy that isn’t funny (at least not in a deliberate way) and that would likely rupture any family unfortunate enough to be exposed to it, this film starts with the premise that people would listen to a cat that dispenses cryptic directives in the voice of Eric Roberts, and then throws such niceties as narrative coherence, plausible characterization, decent production values, and commonsense behavior out the window in its attempt to fill its scant eighty-five minutes with something that justifies its existence.

The Temple of Bad team of Andrea Lipinski, Orenthal V. Hawkins, Kevin Lauderdale and Dan Persons get together to try to puzzle out some method behind A TALKING CAT!?!’s madness (spoiler: they don’t succeed). Click on the player to hear the show.

Sep
02

Richard Lewis on RICHARD LEWIS: BUNDLE OF NERVES

Richard Lewis stars in his acting debut DIARY OF YOUNG COMIC and (inset) takes it up more than few notches in DRUNKS.

Richard Lewis stars in his acting debut DIARY OF YOUNG COMIC and (inset) takes it up more than few notches in DRUNKS.

You’ll hear it in the show, and I’m not going to hide it: I was kinda intimidated talking to Richard Lewis. A brilliant comedian with a lightning-fast mind, Lewis has bested interviewers with far more supple intellects than yours truly. To add to my anxiety, I went into the discussion having watched DRUNKS, the 1995 feature film in which Lewis reveals a rarely seen facility for soul-searing drama. Fully aware of his range and his skill, I knew this discussion was going to be working at a wholly different level than my typical, cozy little chats.

And, bless him, Lewis was great. Our conversation focuses on RICHARD LEWIS: BUNDLE OF NERVES — a just-released two-disc set that includes DRUNKS, as well his acting debut, DIARY OF A YOUNG COMIC, a new-to-DVD HBO special, MAGICAL MISERY TOUR, and a bonus, documentary feature, HOUSE OF A LIFETIME. In the course of the conversation, Lewis discusses his inspirations, explores his ambitions, and just in passing points out that the host of a certain, film-centric podcast shouldn’t presume that everything can be filtered through the wisdom of Cahiers du Cinema. Click on the player to hear the show.

Aug
22

The CFQ Interview: THE WALKING DEAD’s Greg Nicotero

Greg Nicotero (in glasses and plaid shirt) preps a zombie for his moment in the spotlight on THE WALKING DEAD.

Greg Nicotero (in glasses and plaid shirt) preps a zombie for his moment in the spotlight on THE WALKING DEAD.

Sometimes doing the job is reward in itself. That’s what it was like for me to talk with Greg Nicotero. From DAWN OF THE DEAD to BREAKING BAD, from ARMY OF DARKNESS to OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, from HOSTEL to SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR, his vivid and creative makeup effects work has brought the fantastic, the grotesque, and the sometimes-just-plain-realistic to a dazzling kaleidoscope of film and TV projects.

That includes THE WALKING DEAD, the blockbuster TV series which scooped up a couple of primetime Emmy awards for Nicotero’s work in bringing the flesh-hungry walkers to gruesome… uh, life? Death? Anyway, in honor of the release of the complete fourth season on DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday, we got some time with Greg to talk about the finer points of zombie nurturing and care. Click on the player to hear the show.

Aug
21

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: THE GIVER

Jeff Bridges (left) and Brenton Thwaites go where only the Pepperidge Farms man previously dared to tread, remembering the way things used to be in THE GIVER.

Jeff Bridges (left) and Brenton Thwaites go where only the Pepperidge Farms man previously dared to tread, remembering the way things used to be in THE GIVER.

I had my concerns about The Giver, another, teen-oriented film from the Weinstein Company. After all, TWC’s previous effort in this arena was Vampire Academy, and that blatant mish-mosh of Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and whatever else has been luring adolescent females to the theaters didn’t go down too smoothly.

Serving as definite counter-balance to my trepidations: the presence at the helm of  Phillip Noyce, a very good director who becomes even better when telling tales of people finding the inner resources to confront near-insurmountable, social challenges. Turns out my faith was not ill-founded. Click on the player to hear my review for Jim Freund’s Hour of the Wolf, or right-click the title to download.

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Aug
14

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

Megan Fox (back to camera) confronts one of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. That's Leonardo, if you care. We don't.

Megan Fox (back to camera) confronts one of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. That’s Leonardo, if you care. We don’t.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES got nothing to worry about. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES doing quite well, thank you very much. Got the big-budget, Michael Bay treatment (he’s the producer on this one; Jonathan Liebesman directed); came in #1 at the box office this past weekend; has the almost inevitable sequel already in the works. Yup, life is good for TMNT. Unless, of course, the attending audience happened to see GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY last week. In which case, there might have been quite a few people coming out of the theater thinking, Nice try, but it doesn’t quite cut it.

In two weeks, we’ve had two films that want nothing more than to entertain us with some adrenaline-packed, fantastic storytelling. How each goes about the task, and how successful each is, says a lot about the filmmakers, how they regard this genre, and what they think of their audience. I explore the issue a bit in my review of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF. Click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click the title to download.

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