Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mrs. Deadpool Fights a Giant CGI Shark, or Thoughts on The Shallows

The Shallows (2016), from Spanish film director Jaume Collet-Serra of Orphan (2009), stars Blake Lively of Gossip Girl, an extremely popular actor, as a comely surfer who fights a shark. That’s about all you get for a plot and really, when you think about it, that’s about all you need in a fast-paced summer thriller.
The movie opens with some found GoPro footage and annoying onscreen texts and screenshots to establish a contemporary time frame and shove in some easy exposition, but at least it’s not in 3D.  Blake Lively plays Nancy, a med school dropout who spends the day surfing, encounters some cheap jump scares with dolphins and dead whale, and gets attacked by a shark.  She spends most of the movie trapped by the tide on a rock 200 yards from the shore.  There’s a friendly seagull, and some PG-13 self-surgery.  The shark takes a bite on her slim and tanned thigh; really more of a love-tap that will scar up nicely and make for a cool story and/or Instagram post.
It’s easy to compare this movie to Jaws (1975), but it’s just as much a surf movie.  The first third of the movie is spent watching Blake Lively catchin' waves.  The current, waves and chance of drowning are just as threatening as the shark.  If you insist on going there, there’s no theme song, and the CGI shark isn’t as frightening as the giant animatronic used in Jaws.  The genius of Jaws was that Spielberg could film an empty ocean and make it ominous, and thanks to that iconic theme song the audience would imagine the great white shark lurking underneath, you didn’t even need to see the fin to know it was there.  The biggest fear in The Shallows is the lack of Wi-Fi.
It’s an inherently conflicted premise, on one hand we have a privileged American med student in Mexico who doesn’t bother to learn Spanish but looks great in a bikini finding a secret beach to go surfing; co-opting another country’s natural resources for her own pleasure and entertainment.  However we also have a great summer movie with an elegantly simple plot; woman vs. nature, good vs. evil with scenic vistas, and you know, bikinis.  It feels disingenuous to say, accept Peter Weller as half-Japanese in one movie and not Blake Lively in a divisive election year in this movie.  From the surface (pun intended) this movie is a lot of fun and very entertaining, and maybe that’s about as much thought as should go into it.  Some movies are popcorn with extra butter and extra salt, and some are non-fat vegan protein shakes.  It depends on what you’re in the mood for.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When Pinky and The Brain Pleads Your Case, or Thoughts on Compulsion

 Two movies immediately come to mind when I say the phrase “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made”; Charade (1963, with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, and probably my favorite Audrey Hepburn movie) and Compulsion (1959), a much darker courtroom drama directed by Richard Fleischer.   You may not have heard of Richard Fleischer, but you’ve heard of his movies: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Soylent Green (1973), Mandingo (1975) and Conan the Destroyer (1984).  He was a Hollywood powerhouse with a 50-year career.
Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman play Judd and Artie, two college boys in 1920’s Chicago from good families who are actually Nietzschean sociopaths who plan and execute the perfect murder as an intellectual exercise.  Of course they’re not as smart as they think they are and they’re caught and put on trial.  Acting powerhouse Orson Welles plays Jonathan Wilk, their defense attorney, who does his best to save them from hanging.
The second half of the film is a master class in acting as Orson Welles and EG Marshall as District Attorney Harold Horn trade verbal blows across the courtroom.  Orson’s rumpled and avuncular performance is juxtaposed against EG Marshall’s tight-laced and self-righteous DA as the two keen legal minds face off against each other.   It’s always a treat to watch Orson Welles; he’s at the top of his game in Compulsion, and his impassioned argument against the death penalty is still relevant today.
Much like Psycho (1960), Bates Motel and Orphan (2009), Compulsion explores the idea of the baby-faced killer, a common enough theme today but shocking and morally reprehensible to mid-century audiences.   Granted, this is the same society that also condoned racial segregation and considered homosexuality shocking and morally reprehensible so let’s not get too sentimental about the good old days. 
Compulsion is a fictional account of the Leopold and Loeb murder and the subsequent court case that attracted national media attention, much like the OJ trial, though on a much smaller scale.  HItchcock made a similar themed film with Rope (1948), starring Jimmy Stewart.
Dean Stockwell is one of my favorite actors, who along with Kurt Russell and Jodie Foster was able to make a successful transition from child actor to well-adjusted movie star (as opposed to say, Robert Blake, whose career had a similar trajectory before his murder trial).  With films like The Dunwich Horror (1970), Dune (1984), and Blue Velvet (1986), in addition to roles on The A-Team, Miami Vice, Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise and the Battlestar Galactica remake on TV, he has enjoyed a 70-year career and has an IMDb page with over 200 credits. 


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nicole Kidman Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts, or Thoughts on The Others

Los Otros (2001) or The Others came out the same year as Moulin Rouge and Birthday Girl and completely revitalized Nicole Kidman’s career.  Spanish Writer and Director Alejandro Amenábar, Abre Los Ojos (1997, you remember the shot for shot Vanilla Sky remake with Tom Cruise) and Regression (2015) with Emma Watson, helped her create a stylish supernatural thriller about a single mother in a lonely house, at the end of WWII.
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Stewart, haunted in the most literal sense, struggling get through the war and maintain her fragile sanity.  She’s over-worked and close to a breakdown, and the kids aren’t helping.  The first half of the movie is a slow burn, a portrait of a woman unraveling.  Her delicate, bird-like performance is enhanced by her OCD rules about locking doors and complete silence “for the children”.  It’s always for the children in these movies.
Her old-Hollywood glamour is perfectly complimented by the isolated, stately British manor she inhabits along with her two children, creepy housekeeper and mute servant girl.  The children are light-sensitive and allergic to sunlight, so the windows are shaded and the house is always in shadows and permanent night, which of course helps with the hauntings.
It doesn’t take long before the older sister is talking to a little boy that only she can see named Victor.  The viewer can’t tell at first if the sister is merely teasing her little brother, and the tension is heightened as Grace struggles to remain rational and retain her sanity.   Everyone could simply be coping with the war in their own quirky and desperate ways.  We of course as an audience know this is a ghost story, but not in the traditional sense, there are many surprises in store in this moody and atmospheric film.
There’s a refreshing lack of CGI for a 21st Century movie, and the scares rely on good old-fashioned direction, writing and performance.  It’s truly frightening for a PG-13 movie, and holds up admirably when compared to the harder, louder and brassier R-rated The Conjuring (2013).  There are also inevitable comparisons to The Sixth Sense (1999) and ironically, Beatlejuice (1988), but The Others at its heart is a gothic tale more aligned with Henry James in ghost stories like The Innocents (1961) and the BBC production of The Turn of The Screw (2009) with Michelle Dockery.
Fionnula Flanagan plays Mrs. Mills, the Irish housekeeper with a secret, and Christopher Eccleston, who you know and love as the Ninth Doctor and from Fortitude shows up as the shell-shocked husband finally returning home from war.
Nicole Kidman may be immensely popular and an international movie star, but she has been cast in more than her fair share of quirky genre roles.  Since her breakout debut in Dead Calm (1989) she has starred in Batman Forever (1997), The Stepford Wives remake (2004), the Bewitched remake (2005), and the fourth Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, The Invasion (2007).  She always finds time for pop culture in between winning Oscars for The Hours (2002) and high-brow experiments like Dogville (2002) and Fur (2006).



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Monday, June 27, 2016

French Fried Chainsaw Massacre, or Thoughts on Haute Tension

Featuring the world’s first decapitation by bookcase and voted by Time Magazine as one of The Top 10 Most Ridiculously Violent Movies (along with Kill Bill (2003), Hostel (2005) and A Clockwork Orange (1971), Haute Tension (2003) belongs to that New French Extremity genre you’ve heard so much about, along with Trouble Every Day (2001) and Martyrs (2008).
Haute Tension is a violently frenetic chase movie with a resourceful female heroine who kicks ass, a decade before that girl with the bow and arrow would volunteer as tribute.  She also sports a short Caesar-cut that’s way cooler than the side braid thing, but that’s just me.
Cécile de France plays Marie, who spends the weekend at her best friend’s farmhouse in rural France.  Maïwenn (she only has one name, like Madonna), who played the blue Diva Plavalaguna in The Fifth Element (1997) portrays Alex, the best friend.  Alex’s family is murdered in a brutal midnight blitz attack by a nameless killer, Marie hides, Alex is kidnapped, Marie has to save her, and the chase is on.  Phillipe Nahon plays The Killer, a French Michael Meyers with poor personal hygiene who enjoys chopping off heads and necrophilia, in that order.
Any director that can wring tension from a scene of someone making a bed is a filmmaker to watch.  Writer and Director Alexandre Aja, who would go on to direct two remakes, The Hills Have Eyes (2008), and Piranha 3D (2010) has yet to realize his full potential in the US.  His latest movie was Horns (2013), with Daniel Radcliffe.
Haute Tension was released in the UK as Switchblade Romance, which is a cool lesbian-chic title even though there are absolutely no switchblades in this movie.  Fire axes, straight razors, chef knives (we’re in France), shotguns, concrete saws and barbed wire wrapped fence posts, yes.  However, no switchblades (also no chainsaws).  The ending is reminiscent of Identity (2003), Psycho (1960), Fight Club (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001) and Mr. Robot, and if you’ve seen those you will know exactly what I’m talking about.  There’s probably a sub-genre of movies concerning this specific twist, and like the best of these movies, knowing the ending only serves to make the second viewing more intense.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

So No One Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way, or Thoughts on Bridget Fonda in Single White Female

These days you can’t even adopt someone without them being a psycho with movies like Orphan (2009), but way back in the 90’s the theme was still being developed.  I am certain that Single White Female (1992) was pitched as Fatal Attraction (1987) with roommates.  The fear of inviting a stranger into your home, where you are most vulnerable, and where you let your guard down and then that stranger turns out to be a psycho?  That was box office gold for director Barbet Schroeder of Barfly (1987) and Reversal of Fortune (1990), especially when he cast Bridget Fonda, 3rd generation Hollywood royalty, who made her film debut in Easy Rider (1969).
Peter’s daughter, Henry’s granddaughter, and Jane’s niece, plays Allie Jones, a pre-Craigslist, pre-Internet software designer in New York.  Jennifer Jason Leigh, who just staged a succesful comeback with The Hateful Eight (2015) is Heddy Carlson, whose transformation from an awkward 80’s John Hughes wallflower to a sleek 90’s New York yuppie is one of the highlights of this movie.
It’s a professional movie with great performances, quality direction, and a soundtrack by Howard Shore.  Watch out for Stephen Toblowsky, Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day (1993) as a creepy client of Allie’s and Steven Weber who’s currently hamming it up in iZombie playing the type of character that made him so popular, the handsome selfish boyfriend.
Bridget Fonda was a familiar face in the 90’s, starring in The Godfather III (1990), Singles (1992), the La Femme Nikita (1990) remake Point of No Return (1993) Jackie Brown (1997) and the giant alligator movie Lake Placid (1999). If we can trust Wikipedia, she passed on Ally McBeal and basically retired after Kiss of The Dragon (2001).  I’d be happy to hear about a comeback but you know how unkind Hollywood can be towards an aging actress and there’s always another Jennifer Lawrence waiting in the wings.  Didn’t you learn anything from All About Eve (1950)?

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Blood Soaked Beauty in Paris, or Thoughts on Béatrice Dalle in Trouble Every Day

Béatrice Dalle in Trouble Every Day (it’s not her blood)

Leave it to the French to make a stylish, darkly erotic vampire movie in the vein of The Hunger (1983) but with the Gallic ultra violence of Haute Tension (2003).  Director Clair Denis’ Trouble Every Day (2001, from the song by Frank Zappa, features the ageless Béatrice Dalle, who made her screen debut in Betty Blue (1986) as Coré, the voracious blood-fetish cannibal vampire.  She’s a vampire in the sense that serial killer Peter Kürten, The Vampire of Düsseldorf (1883-1931) was a vampire; vampirism in this quietly intense movie is a medical condition, an AIDS metaphor, the ultimate STD, and a supernatural premise firmly grounded in reality.  She’s imprisoned in an abandoned manor like a fairytale princess, but this doesn’t need rescuing.  She bites.
Despite being released in 2001, the movie has a 90’s hipster vibe, primarily from the deadpan casting of Vincent Gallo of Buffalo 66 (1998) as Dr. Shane Brown, on his honeymoon in Paris along with his wife June as played by then-girlfriend Tricia Vessey.  Shane seems to be suffering from the same condition as Coré, but he’s treating it with medication.
Atmospheric and dream-like in places, with a minimal plot that isn’t heavy on explanations, the movie relies on faith that the viewer will just watch and let the experience unfold.  The leisurely jazz soundtrack is both introspective and frustrating, but it succeeds in forcing you to slow down.  This isn’t an American movie designed for short attention spans and chock full of explosions, this is France, and your patience will be rewarded with some of the most ridiculously violent scenes of sexual carnage ever committed to screen.  Tongues are chewed off and throats are torn open, all in the name of an insatiable, barely explained hunger for sex, blood and human flesh.

Trouble Every Day belongs in the New French Extremity movement along with the aforementioned Haute Tension (2003) and Martyrs (2009), and you may find it difficult to watch, yet also at the same time obscenely beautiful.  It’s an art film masquerading as a horror movie.  Memories of the fragmented narrative will linger for days and make you question your commitment to cinema, but that’s what you get when you’re tricked into seeing a 90-minute painting.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Post-Modern Hitchcock Creepy Kids, or Thoughts on Orphan

 Orphan (2009) doesn’t pull any punches and begins with an R-rated bio-horror birth scene straight out of a Cronenberg movie.  From Spanish film director Jaume Collet-Serra of the House of Wax remake (2005, with Paris Hilton!), Non-Stop (2014) and The Shallows (2016) comes the story of an affluent liberal family with an architectural house and 2.5 kids (a horrible joke if you’ve seen the movie, but I couldn’t resist).
Vera Farmiga from Bates Motel and The Conjuring 2 (2016) stars as Kate Coleman, the mom, along with Peter Saarsgard as her husband John.  Recovering from the loss of a child, what could be better than taking in a poor disadvantaged 9-year-old Russian orphan girl?  So what if she’s a little too articulate, looks like one of the Grady Twins from The Shining (1980, as memorably portrayed by real-life twins Lisa and Louise Burns), super-religious and seems remarkably talented, like prodigy-level talented in art?  She’s had a hard life, right?
There’s a nice directorial touch in including a special needs little girl in the family with signage and subtitles, something you don’t encounter too often in American cinema.  Featuring deaf actress Aryana Engineer as Max, who went onto star in Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), they are some of the most sentimental scenes in an intensely psychological thriller with a twisted plot that gets a little Single White Female (1992) towards the end.  There’s a stellar performance by child actor Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther, the little Russian orphan with a secret.  11 at the time, she went on to fight Stephen King’s cell phone zombies in Cell (2016).
The ending is clever, surprising and unexpected, and most importantly, holds up under the scrutiny of multiple viewings.  Watch out for Margo Martindale, Claudia from The Americans, as Kate’s therapist and CCH Pounder from Bagdad Café (1987) and The Shield in full habit as Sister Abigail, who warns that something’s not quite right with Isabelle.

The evil kid genre is popular enough to speculate that it caters to some vague parental passive-aggressive wish fulfillment.  Orphan is reminiscent of The Good Son (1993) with Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood, Hard Candy (2005) with Ellen Page, the Hitchcock classic Rope (1948) and Compulsion (1959) with Orson Welles.  All of these movies play around with the murderous child archetype and the conflicting parental emotions surrounding their actions.  


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Another Small Town Falls to a Pseudo-Zombie Outbreak, or Thoughts on George A. Romero’s The Crazies

Written and Directed by Zombie Godfather George A. Romero of Night of The Living Dead (1968), The Crazies (1973) depicts a Vietnam-era civil disorder and societal breakdown in small town America, thanks to a bio-weapon code named Trixie that creates homicidal crazy people, hence, the title.  All of George A. Romero’s movies always contain at least a hint of his inherent counter-culture distrust of government and authority, but it is a central theme in The Crazies.
The infection is in the water source and nobody rises from the dead, but the government responds as if it’s a zombie outbreak in now familiar ways.  There’s a desperate cover-up by the military and government as they scramble to contain the outbreak and deflect responsibility.  Gas masks and haz-mat suits create anonymous stormtroopers while cleverly offering valuable exposition without actually talking about it.  Citizens are rounded up at gunpoint, in order to not create a panic, when of course it has the opposite effect.  The town is under siege from within by the zombie/crazies and without from the Army trying to contain the outbreak without offering any information to the townspeople.
The first half of The Crazies follows the government response, while the second half returns to Night of The Living Dead territory with a group of townies that escape from the soldiers and try to survive in the countryside.  That goes just as well as you would expect in a George A. Romero movie. 
It’s a low budget movie with an indie (or what was called at the time) guerilla vibe.  A lot of scenes looked like they were filmed in somebody’s kitchen with a varied talent pool of amateur actors.  But it still remains an effective story that predates movies like Return of the Living Dead (1985), 28 Days Later (2002), the Resident Evil (2002) series, Quarantine (2008) and Rec (2007), and Cabin Fever (2002).  There was an updated remake with Timothy Olyphant in 2010 that elaborated on the story and in many ways is superior to the original. Yes, I hate remakes, but it’s hard to stay mad at Seth Bullock and Rayland Givens.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It’s 300 Avatars But With Orcs, or I Watched Warcraft, So You Don’t Have To

Full disclosure: I’m not a gamer, I’d rather watch movies.  I mean I used to play Tetris when it was bundled into the old Windows Entertainment Pack way back in the ‘90s, and that was about as close as I got to understanding the attraction.  That being said, I do have a history of watching and enjoying movies based on videogames, from the first Mortal Kombat (1995, I even bought the soundtrack) and Jean Claude Van Damme’s (Street Fighter 1994, and Raul Julia’s last role) all the way up to the Resident Evil (2002) series and the Silent Hill (2006) trilogy.
From director Duncan Jones of Moon (2009), who you may not be aware began his life as Zowie Bowie, David Bowie’s only son, comes a perplexing mélange of historical styles, mythic creatures and wizards and warriors entitled Warcraft (2016).  In the 50’s they referred to this kind of movie “Swords and Sandals”, with plots based on biblical stories and the Roman Empire.  70 years later, we base our movies on video games.
Watching Warcraft the movie, ironically, is much like the orcs themselves: loud, impressive, larger than life and a spectacular summer blockbuster.  Also green, in the sense that this movie is making truckloads of money from a worldwide fanbase.
The plot is confusing; I got the impression that I was being introduced to characters and a premise in order to get me watch the inevitable two more sequels and reboot.  From what I gathered there is a war between humans and orcs, both sides have access to magic and most interestingly for me, neither side is clearly good or evil.
The CGI is distracting and unimpressive, watching a green-screen movie is no different than watching an animated movie, except nothing was hand-drawn.  The digital slow motion fight scenes, crafted with wires and zeros and ones are fun to watch but not brutal enough to jeopardize that precious PG-13 rating.
The question for any modern fantasy movie that builds an immersive world and mythology is how does it fare against Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001)?  The manufactured landscapes of Warcraft are no match to the actual scenic geography of New Zealand.  Part of the joy of watching Peter Jackson’s  Tolkien opus is the level of detail; artisans made that chainmail link by link, those swords were forged and hammered by blacksmiths, and the scrollwork on the Elven costumes were hand-embroidered.  All of the details and art direction in Warcraft are basically an elaborate and repetitive process of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.  There’s no joy in that, no passion, and it shows in the final product.

With Dominic Cooper, who is showing great promise in AMC’s Preacher, as Llane Wrynn, the ruler of the Stormwind Kingdom, and I had to look that up because it wasn’t clear in the movie.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


James Wan Reinvents the Ghost Story, or Thoughts on The Conjuring

The Conjuring (2013) is based on a true story, in the sense that Ed and Lorraine Warren are actual paranormal investigators who have been associated with Hollywood since The Amityville Horror (1979).  The problem with ghost stories is they’re always anecdotal and based on eyewitness accounts, there’s never any substantial evidence to prove an actual haunting, one way or the other.  But that same lack of evidence is what keeps us fascinated with the supernatural and makes these kind of movies so highly entertaining.
Director James Wan, who you know from Saw (2004), also introduces “Inhuman spirits” or demons as super-dangerous supernatural threats, as opposed to your run of the mill ghost.  I suppose regular ghosts aren’t scary enough in this valiant attempt to out-Amityville Amityville, which is so engrained in our popular culture that everyone’s heard of the name and know what it refers to.  So much time and effort is spent convincing the audience that the story is factual and real, as if grounding the story in the past somehow makes it more frightening.  It comes across as desperate or superfluous.
Patrick Wilson, playing a similar role from Insidious (2011, also directed by James Wan) and Vera Farmiga of Bates Motel and Orphan (2009), portray the aforementioned paranormal investigators.  Ed’s the exorcist, Lorraine’s the psychic, and together they supply the framework for the movie without taking center stage.  These are their case files, after all.  The Conjuring starts with the Annabelle interview; an evil doll appetizer (the actual doll was a Raggedy Ann) that serves to introduce the Warrens and set up a couple frights before bringing on the main course.
The actual conjuring occurs when Ron Livingston from Office Space (1999) and Band of Brothers, and Lilli Taylor from I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), and Six Feet Under move into their new house in 1971 Rhode Island, along with their three daughters.  The dog won’t cross the threshold, the youngest finds a creepy music box in an old tree in the yard, and before long doors are slamming and pictures are falling off walls and there are loud thumps in the night.
Haunted house movies and demonic possession (and hybrids such as these) always feel the need to portray young children in jeopardy and vulnerable to demonic possession.  It’s an easy scare that exploits a natural parental fear, but it also serves to remind the audience of their childhood, and a time when we more receptive to believing in ghosts and Santa Claus.
To be fair, Paranormal Activity (2007) introduced the idea of a demonic presence as a kind of super-ghost, adding an extra scare to the already scary haunted house.  But The Conjuring has a far more complex story and mythos, and doesn’t suffer from first person shaky-cam, and the inherent audience frustration that comes with a found footage movie.  In fact that mythos has been so richly developed that The Conjuring spawned a sequel, The Conjuring 2 (2016), and a spin-off featuring that creepy killer doll, Annabelle (2014).  The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) is another movie based on Ed and Lorraine Warren’s research, and I’m certain a third reboot of The Amityville Horror (2005) is just around the corner.  It’s easier than writing something new, and we all know how much Hollywood enjoys recycling.



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.


Monday, June 20, 2016

At the Corner of Coincidence and Conspiracy, or Thoughts on John Cusack in Identity

John Cusack has always been an interesting choice for a leading man.  He’s not conventionally attractive but he has an old-Hollywood charm, an essential amiability with some rough edges, like a sketchy Jimmy Stewart or a skinny Robert Mitchum.  He was perfectly suited for the post-noir psychological thriller Identity (2003), a classic Agatha Christie premise with a decidedly American spin, where 10 strangers spend the night in a lonely Bates Motel-esque motor inn on a dark and stormy night.
John Cusack is Ed, the mournful limo driver and ex-cop who is stuck with the usual crowd of movie randos; frantic parents with a creepy preternatural kid who doesn’t speak, Amanda Peet as Paris Nevada, the hooker with the heart of gold, Rebecca DeMornay as the spoiled movie star and Clea Duvall, as the troubled newlywed along with her douchebag husband.  Oh and let’s not forget Jake Busey as the psycho killer (quesque c'est) and Ray Liotta as the cop with a secret transporting him.
The first half of the movie is told in flashback, setting up the premise, introducing the characters and filling out the back-stories that led them to this motel in the middle of the Nevada desert.  As an audience familiar with this genre we have an inkling of what will happen next; Jake Busey will escape and kill them off one by one in interesting ways, and then John Cusack will save the day along with Clea Duvall and maybe Amanda Peet but she’ll probably die because you know, hooker.
We’ve seen this movie before, and that’s when the filmmakers make a hard left and take it in a completely different direction.  The twist is intriguing and polarizing; I found it disappointing given how much I enjoyed the first half, but the movie currently has a rating of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes so most of you guys liked it.  I will say the ending was completely original and unlike anything you’ve seen before, that is unless you happened to see Fight Club (1999) or Haute Tension (2003).

From director James Mangold of Girl, Interrupted (1999, which was supposed to be Winona Ryder’s comeback Oscar and instead kickstarted Angelina Jolie’s career) and the 3:10 to Yuma (2007) remake.  And watch out for Alfred “throw me the idol, I throw you the whip” Molina as the psychiatrist, (I bet you didn’t know made his screen debut in Raiders of The Lost Ark, 1981).


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.