BONE TOMAHAWK (2015)

October 25, 2015

bone tamahawk Greetings again from the darkness. In an effort to be helpful to potential viewers, it’s customary to provide a synopsis that allows for a quick determination on whether this “type” of movie will hold appeal. The problem is that this debut from writer/director (and novelist) S. Craig Zahler can be encapsulated with a simple: four local men from a small, dusty old West town head out on a rescue mission to face a tribe of cannibal cave-dwellers. Unfortunately, that analysis doesn’t cover the originality and genre-twisting of this Western-Horror film featuring crisp and funny dialogue, plus some of the most extreme brutality ever witnessed on screen.

A very deep and talented cast milks the script for every possible chuckle, moan, shock of pain, and queasy squirm. Kurt Russell stars as Franklin Hunt, the sheriff of the ironically named town Bright Hope. Though a long-time fan of Mr. Russell, I’ve often been critical of his career-limiting role choices, and here he proves yet again that he has always been capable of taking on a challenging lead and delivering a nuanced performance. He is joined in the rescue posse by his “back-up deputy” Chicory (Richard Jenkins), the abducted woman’s injured husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson), and a nattily attired gunman (Matthew Fox).

The opening sequence featuring outlaws Purvis (David Arquette) and Buddy (horror vet Sid Haig doing his best Slim Pickins imitation) sets the stage for the brutal violence to come in the third act, as well as the film’s crackling dialogue that’s clearly influenced by The Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, and Elmore Leonard. There are also brief but memorable supporting roles from Kathryn Morris (as the Sheriff’s wife), Michael Pare’ (as a self-centered stable owner), James Tolkan (as an uninspired piano player), and Fred Melamed (as the barkeeper). Lili Simmons (“Banshee”) has a key role as the abducted Samantha O’Dwyer.

An odd blending of John Ford’s The Searchers and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, a substantial portion of the (long) run-time is dedicated to the slow trail ride/walk of the four men as they track the “troglodyte” tribe in hopes of rescuing the captured folks. The focus on these four men: the duty-bound Sheriff, the overly loyal deputy, the emotionally-driven husband, and the vengeful gunslinger, is an old West character study dressed up with some fancy oration. In fact, the excessively-perfect English sits in stark contrast to the other-worldly tribal wailings of the cave-dwellers who seem to have no real language at all.

It’s an unusual film that defies a simple synopsis, and certainly won’t appeal to all movie goers. A viewer must enjoy the prolonged journey and the interaction between the distinctive personality types (Jenkins is a particular standout in a Walter Brennan-type role), and also have an affinity (or at least a constitution) for gruesome brutality. The film is only receiving a very limited theatrical release, but should find an audience via VOD.

watch the trailer:

 

 

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IN A WORLD … (2013)

September 9, 2013

in a world1 Greetings again from the darkness. It’s always cool when an actor gets to pursue their first “all in” creative project. Two examples are Joseph Gordon-Levitt with Don Jon and the late Adrienne Shelly with Waitress. This time it’s Lake Bell who is writer, director and leading lady in a story about (at least partially) the empowerment of women in a male dominated field.

This is a very pleasant comedy with dramatic overtones. Ms Bell plays Carol, who is a voice/dialect coach with the dream of breaking into the good ol’ boys club of Voice Over acting. The title of the film was made famous the late great Don LaFontaine, who voiced hundreds of movie trailers that we all watched and listened to. The film begins with a little tribute to LaFontaine and sets the stage as the torch is passed to Sam (Fred Melamed, A Serious Man), who also happens to be Carol’s father, and cocky youngster Gustav (Ken Marino), who has a much different connection to Carol.

in a world3 The father-daughter issues abound as Sam of course believes Voice Over work should be limited to the deep, powerful voices of men. Carol also gets tossed into the relationship drama of her dad and his much younger girlfriend, the marital struggles of her sister (Michaela Watkins) and brother in law (Rob Corddry), and the workplace affections of her co-worker (Demetri Martin-Lewis). That’s a lot of sub-plots and it causes a loss of focus on Carol’s persistence to find her own voice, so to speak.

The quirkiness of Bell’s character also distracts a bit, but mostly she is charming and likable, and we really pull for her to succeed and overcome.  As a director, Bell does a nice job of helping us get to know the multitude of characters, and though there is much to garner interest, it’s just overload for the viewer. When the story focuses on Bell and her dad’s ignorance and competitiveness, the movie is at its best. This is definitely one to check out, and here’s hoping for more from Ms. Bell

NOTE: my fascination with screen voices was the subject a recent blog post entitled “Golden Voices of the Silver Screen”.  You can find it here: http://wp.me/pKvIs-10n

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: watching the good ol’ boys network take a few lumps

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: Fred Melamed creeped you out in A Serious Man … he takes the creep level up a notch here

watch the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZHBjLFu5is