America is a strange and violent land full of teens who think they can drink and drink that barely has alcohol in it. No such comments are made on that in Animal House, a time where drinking was a side order of stirring degeneracy rather than something that could cause it. How the times have changed. John Landis directs this frat comedy with a grand understanding not just of what makes the frat party a place for wild partygoing antics but engages with the National Lampoon caricatures and the shtick they provided audiences for decades. These are the party boys and the snooty sororities that looked down on the fun attitudes of the time. But did they exist? Probably not.
The turn of a new century and an exciting era for filmmaking would soon sour. It is the reaction to adaptation and the appeal of seeing similar stories time and time again that weakens film, but some can take tried and tested source material to new areas and modern times. Paul Verhoeven applied that with this loose adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. He does not riff on the set designs or the moral impact that could come from a man invisible to the naked eye but engages with the twisted, devolving mind of a man turned invisible out of choice and struggling to turn back.
Out of all the film’s director Clint Eastwood has crafted, Mystic River is the most frustrating and spectacular of all. It has such great moments within it, but they are wrapped in a blanket of oozing, horrendously thought-out intentions. Where great characters come together, they stumble through their fixations. Childhood friends with dark and gritty lives, people who have outgrown one another yet are changed, for better or worse, by another tragedy that brings them back together. Mystic River is in good hands, it has horrible intentions and strikes a chord with them clearly and quickly, but those darker moments are never mused on effectively even with such great performers at the helm.
I’m puzzled as to why Friday the 13th and the many films that followed it are so popular. At least with A Nightmare on Elm Street I can understand the popularity, at its core there is a very strong villain there. With this piece from Sean S. Cunningham, though, all you have is a tall hockey mask lumbering around with a machete. Scary, of course, I very much doubt many would want to be stuck in the room with such a villain, but as far as actual quality goes, there’s a lot to be desired from Friday the 13th. Perhaps it’s simply just in the right place at the right time, a time when the boobs, blood and exploitation of horror films was at its peak.
Suffering through a dark American comedy focused on superhero vigilantes just to see Rainn Wilson and Kevin Bacon share the screen was, in hindsight, not a valuable use of my time. Expecting something in the vein of Kick-Ass, I most certainly got what I asked for. But then, I remembered I’m not keen on Kick-Ass, with its watered-down nit-picking of superhero fanfare and what it takes for a good origin story. Frankly, it repulsed me, but it had become a niche genre of its own, spawning a sequel, and somehow releasing the same year as a film in a similar vein to it, Super. A miserable, weak attempt at bringing a bit of dark comedy and gory exposure into a genre filled with teenage boy wonders, masked villains and box-office robbery.
Everyone knows about that scene. It’s impossible to avoid, and having heard about it and seen it so frequently referenced in pockets of pop culture, I decided I’d avoid A Few Good Men until I absolutely, desperately wanted to watch it. As it turns out, I’d underestimated how much I wanted to see this Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson courtroom drama. An impressive, boastful cast of big-name actors bring together a Rob Reiner directed piece, based on a stage play by the feverishly talented Aaron Sorkin. It’s a crime that I didn’t check this one out earlier, especially since I hold such a high regard for Nicholson’s performances. Better late than never I suppose.