Catching Up With The Films of 2021: Wild Indian (dir by Lyle Corbine, Jr.)

Wild Indian opens in the 80s, with two teenage boys living on a Ojibwe reservation in Wisconsin.  Both of them come from broken homes.  Both of the are bullied in school.  Makwa (played, as teenager, by Phoenix Wilson) is quiet but angry and spends most of his time trying to avoid the company of his alcoholic parents.  His cousin, Teddo (played, as a teenager, by Julian Goppal), is slightly more responsible and level-headed.  One day, after Makwa kills one of his classmates, he begs Teddo to help him hide the body.  Teddo is reluctant but eventually, he agrees.

We then jump forward several years.  Now played by Michael Greyeyes, the adult Macwa lives in California and he uses the name Michael Peterson.  He’s a businessman, a partner in a firm with Jerry (played by the film’s executive producer, Jesse Eisenberg).  Michael is married to a white woman (Kate Bosworth) and lives in an upscale apartment.  He and his wife have one child and another is on the way.  Though Michael doesn’t deny his Native heritage, he now uses it for a gimmick.  He describes it as being his “brand.”  He never speaks of his past in Wisconsin.  His wife doesn’t even know his original name.  Michael would seem to have everything that he’s ever wanted but it’s obvious that he’s still struggling with his inner demons.  He hires a stripper so that he can strangle her.  The rare time he does talk about other Native Americans, it’s to dismiss them as being dishonest and narcissistic, descriptions that many would use to describe Michael himself.

Meanwhile, Teddo (now played by Chaske Spencer) has spent the last several years in prison.  Wracked with guilt after helping Makwa cover up the murder of their classmate, Teddo became a drug dealer.  When he gets out of prison, his face is heavily tattooed, as if he’s trying to announce his crimes and sins to the world.  When he visits the mother of the boy that Makwa murdered, Teddo starts to cry uncontrollably.  Eventually, Teddo leaves Wisconsin, heading to California so that he can confront Makwa face-to-face.

Wild Indian is an atmospheric and, at times, rather disturbing thriller.  It’s not a surprise that Teddo wants and needs some sort of resolution with Makwa but, from that premise, the film’s story goes off in some unexpected directions and, in the end, neither Makwa nor Teddo turn out to be quite who the viewer was expecting them to be.  Teddo, the violent drug dealer, turns out to have a strong sense of moral obligation while Makwa, for all of his success, is so deeply in denial about his past and his sins that he can’t even be honest with himself about who he is, much less anyone else.  It all leads to a rather jarring ending, one that may seem abrupt but actually works perfectly.  In the end, the sins of the past cannot be escaped and they cannot be changed.  All one can do is live under the clouds of the past.

Wild Indian is triumphant directorial debut for Lyle Corbine, Jr., an uncompromising character study of two men who can never escape the past no matter how much they may want to.  Both Michael Greyeyes and Chaske Spencer give wonderful performances as Makwa and Teddo.  This is definitely a film to track down and watch.

Love on the Shattered Lens: Blue Crush (dir by John Stockwell)

Released in 2002, Blue Crush tells the story of Anne Marie Chadwick (Kate Bosworth).

Anne Marie lives in Hawaii and she’s got a lot going on in her life.  Because her mother recently abandoned her daughters so that she could run off to Las Vegas with her good-for-nothing boyfriend, Anne Marie is practically raising her 14 year-old sister, Penny (Mike Boorem).  Anne Marie is also working as a maid at a beach-side hotel, where she and her two best friends, Eden (Michelle Rodriguez) and Lena (Sanoe Lake), spend their time cleaning up messes and trying on the guests’s clothes.  I have to admit that, if I was a maid, I’d probably try on the clothes too.  However, after watching Blue Crush several times, I can tell you that the last thing I would ever want to do would be to work as a hotel maid.  Seriously, some of the messes that Anne Marie, Eden, and Lena had to deal with were so disgusting that I had to look away from the screen.  Bleh!

Anne Marie and her two friends are also surfers!  In fact, surfing is pretty much what their lives revolve around.  Anne Marie has been invited to compete in an upcoming competition but she’s haunted by an incident that occurred several years before, an extreme wipe-out that nearly caused her to drown.  (Despite all of the beautiful surfing footage, this film does little to alleviate my own extreme drowning phobia.)  Despite Eden’s encouragement, Anne Marie isn’t sure that she has what it takes to get back into the competition circuit.

Unfortunately, there’s a group of NFL players staying at the hotel and they totally trash their room and leave a huge mess for the maids to clean up.  (At one point, Lena finds a used condom stuck to the bottom of her shoe and totally freaks out.  I would have to.  I once moved into an apartment that was already inhabited by several friends of mine and, while I was cleaning, I came across like nearly a hundred used condoms hidden in every nook and cranny of the place.  I mean, I was happy that everyone was having sex but seriously, don’t just leave your condom on the floor after it’s been used.  Pick up after yourself!  Anyway, where was I?)  Fortunately, however, one of the players is a totally hot quarterback named Matt (Matthew Davis).  Matt and his fellow players hire Anne Marie and her friends to teach them how to surf.  Matt and Anne Marie end up falling in love, mostly because they’re the two best-looking people on the beach.  With Matt’s support, will Anne Marie be able to conquer her fears and compete in the competition?  It would be a really depressing movie if she didn’t.


So, let’s see.  What do you we have here?

We’ve got lots of pretty shots of pretty people running along the beach in slow motion.

We’ve got a soft-focus love scene between the best-looking people in the movie.

We’ve got a ton of exciting surfing footage.

We’ve got a thoroughly predictable plot that still kind of works because everyone involved is so good-looking.

Yep, this must be a John Stockwell film.

Seriously, John Stockwell is one of my favorite directors because he always delivers exactly what he promises.  He makes films about beautiful people in beautiful places and if that’s not enough for you, too bad.  He’s a genre director and makes no apologies for it.  There’s a refreshing lack of pretension when it comes to John Stockwell’s filmography and it’s hard not to appreciate the universe that he creates in films like Crazy/Beautiful, Into the Deep, In the Blood, and this one.  It’s a universe where everyone knows that they’re in a genre movie and they behave accordingly.  It’s a world where the scenery is beautiful, the people are attractive, and nearly every problem can be solved by a kiss or the proper one-liner.

You could probably make the argument that the storyline of Blue Crush is shallow and a bit obvious.  I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you.  But who cares?  Kate Bosworth and Matthew Davis have a tone of chemistry, the Hawaiian scenery is gorgeous, and well, I just kind of love this movie.


Trailer: Homefront (Official)


Lisa Marie posted earlier that 2013 was the Year of Franco. She may just be right since there’s another film coming out this year that has him starring.

Homefront has James Franco going mano y mano with another name who seems to be in at least a couple films every year for the past ten years. It’s Statham vs. Franco and while this awkward yet awesome match-up looks like it should be something that went Direct-to-Video there’s a weird vibe around the trailer that looks like it’s the better remake of Peckinpan’s Straw Dogs. We even have Kate Bosworth all up in this film though she’s definitely looking like she may have went a tad bit too method in portraying a meth-head mother.

The cast alone tells me that I must see this when it comes out: Statham, Franco, Bosworth, Winona Ryder, Clancy Brown, Vince D’Onofrio, Frank Grillo and Mischa Barton. One could almost see “guilty pleasure” waving in the background.

So, if there’s nothing else to say about Homefront other than Statham going all Transporter on a meth-dealing biker gang from the bayou it’s the fact that this film will be Hollywood’s birthday gift to me when it comes out on November 27, 2013. Just in time for my birthday.

Franco may have just met his match in Statham.

What If Lisa Marie Was In Charge of the Golden Raspberry Awards

If you’re following the Awards ceremony, you know that two major events are coming up next week.  On Tuesday, the Oscar nominations will be announced.  But before that, on Monday, the Golden Raspberry Award nominations will be announced.  For 32 years, the Golden Raspberries have been honoring the worst films of the year and they’ve always served as a nice counterpoint to the self-congratulatory nature of the Academy Awards.

Now, on Monday night, I’ll be posting what I would nominate if I was in charge of the Oscars but first, I’d like to show you what I’d nominate if I was solely responsible for making the Golden Raspberry nominations.

Now before anyone leaves me any pissy comments, these are not predictions.  I know that these are not the actual nominations.  I know that the actual Golden Raspberry nominations will probably look a lot different.  These are just my individual picks.

(My “winners” are listed in bold print.)

Worst Picture


The Conspirator

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

The Rum Diary

Straw Dogs

Worst Actor

Daniel Craig in Dream House, Cowboys and Aliens, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Aaron Eckhardt in Battle: Los Angeles

James Marsden in Straw Dogs

James McAvoy in The Conspirator

Brandon Routh in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Worst Actress

Kate Bosworth in Straw Dogs

Anita Briem in Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Claire Foy in Season of the Witch

Brit Marling in Another Earth

Sara Paxton in Shark Night: 3-D

Worst Supporting Actor

Paul Giamatti in The Ides of March

Mel Gibson (as the Beaver) in The Beaver

Sir Derek Jacobi in Anonymous

Giovanni Ribisi in The Rum Diary

James Woods in Straw Dogs

Worst Supporting Actress

Jennifer Ehle in Contagion

Amber Heard in The Rum Diary

Willa Holland in Straw Dogs

Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous

Oliva Wilde in Cowboys and Aliens

Worst Director

Roland Emmerich for Anonymous

Rod Lurie for Straw Dogs

Kevin Munroe for Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Robert Redford for The Conspirator

Bruce Robinson for The Rum Diary

Worst Screenplay

Anonymous, written by John Orloff.

Another Earth, written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling

The Beaver, written by Kyle Killen

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, written by Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer.

Straw Dogs, written by Rod Lurie.

(That’s right, it’s a tie.)

Worst Screen Couple 

Rhys Ifans and Joeley Richardson in Anonymous

Rhys Ifans and Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous

Brit Marling and any breathing creature in Another Earth

Mel Gibson and The Beaver in The Beaver

James Marsden and Kate Bosworth in Straw Dogs

Worst Prequel, Sequel, or Remake


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Scream 4

Straw Dogs

Transformers 3

Is Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs The Worst Film of 2011?

It’s probably a bit too early to answer that question.  After all, we’ve still got 3 months left to go in the year and Roland Emmerich’s take on Shakespeare (a.k.a. Anonymous) hasn’t been released yet.  So, no, Rod Lurie’s remake of Straw Dogs cannot be called the worst film of 2011 yet.  Instead, it’s just the worst film so far.

Straw Dogs is a remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah film.  In the Peckinpah film, David Sumner (played by Dustin Hoffman) is a pacifist who, upon moving to the childhood home of his wife Amy (Susan George), is repeatedly harassed by the locals until he finally takes his very brutal revenge.  It’s a flawed and uneven film that still carries quite a punch.  I wouldn’t say I’ve ever enjoyed watching Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs but it’s undeniably powerful film.  As for the remake, Peckinpah has been replaced with Rod Lurie, Hoffman by James Marsden, and Susan George’s controversial character is now played by Kate Bosworth.  None of these changes are for the better.

Lurie’s version of Straw Dogs almost slavishly follows the plot of the original.  He’s made just a few changes and none of those changes are for the better.  The most obvious change is that, while the first Straw Dogs took place in rural England, Lurie’s version takes place in Mississippi.  It’s pretty easy to guess Lurie’s logic here.  Lurie, after all, previously created the television show Commander-in-Chief in which President Geena Davis heroically struggled to save the nation from fundamentalists with Southern drawls.  Lurie’s vision of Mississippi is some sort of Blue State nightmare where everyone drives a pickup truck, goes to church, cheers at football games, and makes supportive comments regarding the War in Iraq.  In the original Straw Dogs, David Sumner is a truly a stranger in a strange land, an American who doesn’t realize just how out-of-place he is in rural England.  In the remake, David Sumner is just a guy on vacation from the West Coast.  He really has no excuse for being quite as dense as he is when it comes to not pissing off the locals.  By changing the locale, Rod Lurie essentially just makes his film into yet another example of Yankee paranoia.  This wouldn’t be such a problem except that Lurie seems to be taking it all so seriously.  He really seems to feel that he’s making a legitimate contribution to the whole Red State/Blue State divide.  Watching the film, I had to wonder if Rod Lurie truly believed that it’s impossible to get a cell phone signal in Mississippi. 

The other big difference is that in Lurie’s version, David Sumner is no longer a mathematician.  Instead, he’s now a Hollywood screenwriter who is apparently working on an epic screenplay about the Battle of Stalingrad.  (“I figured out a way to get Khrushchev in on the action!” he says at one point.)  To be honest, David’s screenplay sounds kinda boring and it’s hard not to sympathize with the “hillbilly rednecks,” (as David calls them) who ask him why anybody would want to watch his movie.  (The rednecks also ask him if he thinks that God had anything do with the Battle of Stalingrad.  Speaking as a nonbeliever, I have to say that this film was almost hilariously paranoid about any sort of religious belief.)  Part of the power of the first Straw Dogs came from the fact that David was an academic.  He was a man whose life was about theory and that made it all the more shocking to see him explode into action.  It also explained his non-existent social skills, because he was, after all, the product of a very insular, intellectual existence.  However, in the remake, David just becomes a condescending jerk who’s working on a screenplay for a film that most viewers would have little interest in actually sitting through.  (Add to that, it was hard not to feel that this new David was just Rod Lurie’s Mary Sue.)

David is in Mississippi because it’s the childhood home of his wife, Amy.  The character of Amy is problematic in both versions of Straw Dogs but, to be honest, I found her character to be even more illogical and insulting in Lurie’s remake.  In the original Straw Dogs, Amy is portrayed as an idiot who flirts with every man she sees, taunts her husband to the point of violence, and (by that film’s logic) puts herself in a situation that leads to her rape.  The character is, in many ways, an insulting stereotype but at least she’s a consistent insulting stereotype.  The remake’s Amy is presented as being a considerably stronger character.  She doesn’t openly flirt with the local rednecks, she and her husband are a lot more obnoxiously lovey dovey, and (as opposed to in the first film), it’s never suggested that she actually enjoys being raped.  Kudos to Lurie for trying to make her a stronger character.  Yet, at the same time, the remake’s Amy still does a lot of the same illogical things as the original Amy.  The original Amy at least had the excuse of being an idiot.  The remake’s Amy just comes across as being an inconsistent, poorly-concieved character.  Eventually, it becomes obvious that director Lurie wasn’t trying to make Amy into a stronger character as much as he was just trying to be politically correct.  (Another thing that the two Amys have in common is that neither one of them wears a bra.  It made sense in the original film because the original Amy was presented as being something of a wannabe flower child.  In the remake, it just comes across as Lurie’s dirty boy excuse to get a peek at Kate Bosworth’s nipples.  Seriously, who goes jogging without a sports bra?)

Anyway, the remake follows the path of the original.  David and Amy return to Amy’s home village where they meet Amy’s ex-boyfriend Charlie Venner (played by an amazingly hot and sexy Alexander Skarsgard).  David hires Charlie and his redneck buddies to repair the roof of an old barn.  Charlie, who is obviously still attracted to Amy, spends the entire first part of the movie subtly humiliating David and basically being a bully.  Somebody strangles Amy’s cat.  Amy says it was Charlie and his friends.  David replies, “I can’t just accuse them.”  Eventually, David is taken on a deer hunt by Charlie’s friends and while he’s gone, Charlie and his buddy Chris rape Amy. 

(In the original it was a snipe hunt and the sight of Dustin Hoffman searching for a nonexistent creature while his wife is being raped was quite disturbing and perfectly symbolized his character’s impotence.  In the remake, David is once again left alone in the woods but this time, he shoots and kills a deer and, unfortunately, James Marsden isn’t a good enough actor to let us know what that means.)

Amy never tells David that she was raped, nor does she go to the authorities.  (This makes a sick sense in the original.  In the remake, it just seems like an effort by Rod Lurie to degrade a previously strong woman.)  The next night, David ends up sheltering the local sex pervert in his house while Charlie and his drunken friends attempt to break in.  This leads to David revealing that, as opposed to being “a coward,” he’s actually as vicious a killer as everyone else in the film. 

In the original version, this was a disturbing revelation if just because Sam Peckinpah emphasized not so much the killing as the fact that, as the siege progresses, David begins to enjoy the killing more and more.  Once Peckinpah’s David has given into the reality that he too is an animal, you realize that it’ll be impossible for him to return to being the essentially decent man that he was before.  In the original, you start out cheering David’s revenge but soon, you just want it to stop.  Much like the originalTexas Chainsaw Massacre, the film is so thematically nightmarish that you end up thinking you’ve seen a lot more blood than you actually have.  It sticks with you.

However, since Lurie’s remake is a film devoid of nuance or subtlety, the sudden explosion of violence on David’s part is neither surprising nor all that exciting.  And since James Marsden is no Dustin Hoffman (to put it lightly), you don’t see any change in David once the violence begins.  He’s not a man turning into an animal as much as he’s just a 90210 reject with a scowl on his face.  He kills a lot of men but he looks oh so pretty doing it and Amy cheers him on every step of the way.  (In the original, Amy was terrified of her husband’s new side.  I would be too.)  Since Lurie isn’t a good enough director to generate a sincere emotional response to seeing David turn into a killer, he instead lingers over all the blood and gore like a pervert struggling to catch his breath while secretly looking at a snuff website.  In short, the original Straw Dogs condemned violence by pretending to celebrate it.  The remake celebrates it by pretending to condemn. 

Okay, you may be saying, so it’s not a great film.  But is it really the worst of 2011 so far?  After all, Alexander Skarsgard gives a charismatic, bad boy performance and James Woods has a few good scenes as a venomous former football coach.  And director Lurie, while he may be incapable of keeping the action moving at a steady pace, does manage to make Mississippi look pretty.  That’s all true but I still say that Straw Dogs is the worst movie of the year so far.  Why? 

Because it’s not only a remake of a film that didn’t need to be remade but it’s also a remake that was apparently made by people who don’t have a clue about what made the original an important film to begin with.  It’s a film that’s gloriously unaware of its own tawdriness, a sordid mess that can’t even have fun with the possibilities inherent in being a sordid mess.  Arrogantly, director Lurie invited you to compare his film to Sam Peckinpah’s by not just ripping off the film’s story (as countless other enjoyable films have done) but by claiming the title as well.  It’s a film that represents Hollywood at its worst and for me, that’s why it’s earned the title of worst film of 2011 so far.

(One positive note: Perhaps this terrible, insulting remake will encourage someone to track down the original Straw Dogs and see how this story was meant to be told.)

Quick Movie Review: The Warrior’s Way (dir. by Sngmoo Lee)

I’ll admit that I didn’t give The Warrior’s Way that much thought when we picked it up from the rental store the other day. At first glance, it didn’t seem to have much of an identity to it. Was it trying to be something serious like a House of Flying Daggers or something more humorous like Kung Fu Hustle? I guess one could say that it’s really a little of both and although the movie may be a little too strange for it’s own good, it was really worth going through the first hour or so just to get to the last 30 minutes. The film really picks up steam from there going forward.

In the film, Yang (Jang Dong Gun) becomes the Greatest Swordsman in the World after defeating the original Greatest Swordsman ever. After doing so, he’s given an order to kill a family by his clan. Managing to kill everyone but a young baby named April, Yang decides to let it live and to take care of it, giving the movie a Lone Wolf and Cub / Shogun Assassin feel.

And basically, what the film boils down to is Yang trying to leave behind the life he had in order to protect the baby he’s found. He finds himself in a Wild West town and meets a number of individuals who help him hide his identity. In return, he helps them gain the courage to find themselves. Kate Bosworth’s character, Lynne, is a knife thrower with a bit of talent, but without any focus. Geoffrey Rush is something of a drunkard, but in watching what Yang is doing in the town, he sets aside his drinking ways in place of sniper rifle. Both actors are okay in their roles, but I found myself wondering why they went with these, honestly.

One of the standouts of this film (if one could say there’s a standout, because the movie really could be better than what it was) was Danny Houston. Despite some of the bad movies he’s been in (X-Men Origins: Wolverine instantly comes to mind), he carries his characters with this really weird style – his voice has this sense of authority, much like a Liev Schreiber – his villain is the classic evil cowboy, which normally would do him a lot of justice. Here, he does okay in his scenes, but doesn’t really have a whole lot to work with.

Yang is also being pursued by his former master, Saddest Flute, named after the sound one’s throat makes when it’s cut. Saddest Flute and his ninjas manage to make their way to the town, which culminates in a really cool battle which is one part Rango, one part Ninja Scroll and even a little like Samurai Jack. And all of that really needs to be seen, all 25 to 30 minutes of it, even if it happens to be just as a clip.

Overall, The Warrior’s Way is the kind of movie you end up watching if you’re planning to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon or if you really like cinema of this type. It’s not worth taking the whole ride for, but it ends with such a bang that one may not consider it a total loss.