The Wolf of Snow Hollow

Written and directed by: Jim Cummings
Starring: Jim Cummings as John Marshall, Riki Lindhome as Officer Julia Robinson, Robert Forster as Sheriff Hadley, Chloe East as Jenna Marshall, with Jimmy Tatro as PJ Palfrey, and others.

An idiosyncratic black comedy that toes the line between horror and thriller that delivers a tale that is quite good. When murders start occurring in the small town of Snow Hollow, Utah, local police are stumped as to the identity of the killer. Local reports suggest a canine, or wolf, is responsible, with rumors circulating that is the work of the Wolfman. Local deputy, and son of the Sheriff, John Marshall is adamant it is nothing less than the work of a man. What follows is a poignant story of an alcoholic who tries to care for his teenage daughter, while circumnavigating the stress of his job as a police officer, and the mockery that comes with it. Mockery in no small part due to the inadequacy of the police in apprehending the killer.

The cinematography of the sleepy town is beautiful, with snow capped mountains and desolate, sparse trees. What little forest there is, is often used to great effect to help invoke feelings of paranoia and fear. It is at once haunting as there is also humour to be found in many situations. Like poking fun at a cop’s tendency to shoot when startled, or even mild corruption when it comes to a father’s dealings with his daughter’s boyfriend. It wrestles with the notion that women have been having to deal with men trying to kill them since the middle ages, and the fear that comes with that.

It was marvelously acted by Jim Cummings as the alcoholic father and deputy, and his mannerisms and quirks kept me enthralled throughout. I wish to see more his work throughout the upcoming years. The supporting cast also did a great job in their roles, from the grieving boyfriend of a murdered woman to the partner (Julia) of the deputy, John. Robert Forster did great, in his final role, as the aging Sheriff dealing with health concerns in his old age while trying to keep at his job.

Overall, it was an entertaining ride with a satisfying conclusion. I recommend it for a watch, and I hope writer/actor/director Jim Cummings keeps his projects coming.


Law Abiding Citizen

Massive Spoilers Below

If you’ve not seen this movie yet, please avoid reading this review.

This movie opens with a family man, Gerard Butler, chatting with his young daughter while someone is knocking at the door. He opens it, without seeing who it is, and gets assaulted, tied up, and stabbed. His wife also gets assaulted, tied up and stabbed, and raped. His daughter gets taken away from his sight before he passes out from his injuries. With this set up in mind, the viewer is predisposed to have sympathy for Gerard Butler’s character, Clyde. Such a crime should not go unpunished. However, not a mere 5 minutes later we hear that the system is imperfect and that some justice is better than no justice at all. We, the viewers, can tell that Clyde is not gonna like that information at all. Who would after witnessing such devastation of their family? The lawyer, Nick Rice, played by Jamie Foxx, is as part of the problem as the criminals themselves because he’d rather push for a sentence he can get than to mess up his 96% conviction rate. Even if that sentence is but a tap on the wrist. I once heard that lawyers are supposed to be seekers of the truth, and the truth is what your client believes. Therefore, it is in your best interest to create the narrative that makes your clients truth plausible. The quick meeting between Nick and Clyde demonstrated that Nick has no interest in creating such a narrative, he is quick to shoot down any truth of Clyde. His sole interest is his own personal gain, and to me, the worst kind of lawyer; the type that gives rise to jokes about their profession as being blood suckers.

Roughly 10 minutes into the movie, the time skips ahead 10 years. Nick is at breakfast with his 10 year old daughter, and his wife reminds him of her cello recital. He says he can’t make it because he has to work, and his daughter says she understands because he locks up bad guys to keep his family safe. Her dad does not do that, he helps keep turning the gears of the prisons so that he may profit in return. He is not altruistic, nor selfless. The justice that he got for Clyde’s family was to let a rapist and a murderer provide false evidence and testimony against his partner who will now get the death penalty. An innocent man, for the crimes accused, will now die. He is not entirely innocent because he helped the real bad guy commit his crimes. Yet the system is content with that. The point of the justice system is to get judged by your peers, but Nick thinks himself above that, and 10 years ago, he made the decision of who should be punished.

That real bad guy, Darby, gets his due justice at the hands of Clyde. Who kidnaps him, and keeps him awake with medication, while strapped to a table rigged with a mirror to show him everything that’s about to be done. Clyde systematically cuts off his limbs and appendages as revenge. Morally, do I agree with his action? Yes, I do, because the system failed him and he acted with what he felt was appropriate. Ethically, Clyde has become the monster he hunts. And in turn, deserves to be judged by his peers.

Clyde is the bad guy now. He demonstrated that when he sent the video of his revenge porn torture to Nick’s family. I understand wanting Nick to pay, but bringing his family into this heinous world is what turned him from vigilante to monster. I lost my sympathy for him then. This is a movie with no likeable characters. It’s a light shone on the failure of the American justice system. Nick’s ego is what caused all of this in the first place. And for that action, he’s the antagonist. The protagonist, Clyde, is a villain with a tragic origin. I enjoy this twist on the typical formula.

Clyde brutally kills his cellmate with a piece of bone from a steak, and at this point, the rest of the audience is fully aware he’s a villain. Yet he’s still our protagonist, no matter how fucked up he is. Clyde let them know exactly what time to deliver his demands so that the lawyer he kidnapped would still be alive if the system worked. But the Warden is corrupt, power went to his head in being in charge of others, and decided that Clyde will get his meal when he says so. As a result, the lawyer is dead. “Everyone must be held accountable for their actions.” These words are the driving point of this movie. It’s revealed that Clyde is a killer for the defense department, he’s the guy you go to when you want someone dead that you couldn’t reach: a natural tactician, and a think tank type brain. A tinkerer that can come up with all sorts of devices to achieve death.

He kills the judge from his bail hearing with a modified cell phone. When Nick visits him in jail, Clyde says what I already stated at the beginning: that Nick does his lawyer job in the way that best serves him. Not his clients. Himself. Nick counteracts by saying it doesn’t work to blow up the system. But that’s the thing, that’s the only way to change the system. You have to tear it down completely and utterly, and from its ashes, create a new system. Otherwise, the system will adapt to your attempts at change. It will make you think that your outcry had some effect, and while in actuality that system has become stronger because you are now a part of it. Even if you don’t realize it. And it is because of this message why that the creators and producers of this movie could not continue with their intended ending. Why they went with the ending that they did. The system got to them, and they were afraid to promote the idea of disturbing the status quo. Clyde has to lose despite being our protagonist.

After going through with his promise that he will kill everyone should he not be released by 6am and all charges dropped, Nick sees him at the prison, but outside its walls. He promptly proceeds to assault him multiple times, typical of an antagonist who’s annoyed at the protagonist. Yet this man is supposed to be a defender of justice, and here he is blatantly breaking the law. Clyde reacts by saying that if Nick had bothered to even try, and not had his ego in the way, then none of this would have happened. And now Clyde is going to bring the whole “corrupt temple down on his head”. That would be an epic ending, but the makers of this movie are cowards. No need to mince words, that is what they are. This movie could have had a powerful message, like Joker, but they cowered to their financers and that did not happen. They were terrified of the repercussions this might weave with individuals watching.

“Put an armed cop on every corner.” Yes, that’s a brilliant idea. And to what end? To show people the city’s secure. See, in any other rational mind, that would not have that effect. A force that only serves the interests of the status quo would not inspire confidence in me. In fact, not unlike current political events in the United States.

Nick discovers some crucial piece of evidence, and true to his character, he breaks the law again by breaking into a property owned by Clyde. “Fuck his civil rights” – that’s whole reason this mess started! The irony is thick on this one. I’m amazed at how thick headed and stubborn Nick is. But then again that’s the point, Nick is the system personified. He’s meant to keep Clyde down, while failing to realize that his own actions brought around everything. This is also why Nick wins in the end. As much as Clyde tried to change the entire structure, it let him cause chaos until it realized that Clyde could in fact win, and that’s why he must lose. The system does not fight fairly. It’ll adapt however it must to survive, even at the cost of supposed laws. As the Mayor in the movie says, “I don’t care what laws we have to bend.”

The movie ends with Clyde killing himself with his own bomb that they moved under his cell bed. In doing so, they’ve made a mockery of the entire movie and completely undermined any message it might have had. All it did was show viewers that you can’t beat the system, not even allowed in a fantasy. Yet Joker did it, only took 10 years. The final notes are that Nick sees his daughter’s cello recital and that the antagonist wins. The director F. Gary Gray is another cog in the propaganda machine of Hollywood. He bends over to studios and his financers, and instead of being brave and telling us a powerful story of man beating the system, he’d rather showcase that nothing can win. No amount of intellect or planning will allow them to lose. The status quo must always be maintained.

The acting was phenomenal by both parties involved, and the supporting cast was great. Overall, I don’t recommend this movie because it’s like having a case of blue balls so to speak. It offers such a great premise with an incredible possible message that it squandered away and gives no resolution. In the final 15 minutes, it abruptly flipped who the protagonist was to be the antagonist. And the antagonist became the protagonist. It’s just an infuriating movie.


Death Wish (2018)

When I saw this movie had surfaced on Netflix, I instantly remembered having seen it but I couldn’t quite remember the plot. As soon as I started watching, I remembered why I enjoyed this movie. And that is because it is an apparent revenge porn, for a lack of a better phrase. It’s vigilantism against the perceived wrongs. In the case of the main character, Dr. Paul Kersey, played by Bruce Willis, it’s making sure that criminals have consequences for their actions. It’s a social commentary on the American justice system and on how ineffective police are. As one of the characters in the movie says, police show up after a crime has been commited. They don’t prevent crimes. Only a man willing to defend his family can keep them safe, you have to do things yourself.

With all the issues that are currently being faced in the US and around the world regarding police, I feel this movie is contemporary but I would change it to better suit modern times. The way I’d change it is one that some might call me insane, and probably, nay, most definitely wouldn’t ever get made. I’d change it so that Paul’s family was murdered by a pair of cops responding to a call and being the trigger happy individuals that they are, it ends disastrous for his family. Meanwhile I’d have the other cops covering up this incident and the detective that Paul talks to tries to paint some criminals as the perpetrators. So because Paul is mislead, innocent (well not so innocent, still criminals) individuals end up on the wrong end of his gun.

The problem with such a fantasy is how would you end it? If you’re making a point against the failure of the police system, Paul can’t just summarily execute two cops. I mean he could, and that would be some cathartic revenge porn for a lot of people who are fed up hearing about cops shooting people in the back or in their own homes. These movies are a slippery slope. What I believe this movie is, is not gun porn nor is it revenge porn. It is showing how a man would react to having his family killed and maimed. Then getting fed up with the ineptitude of the police. In a way, it’s almost like the Punisher.

I didn’t watch this movie because I thought it was good, I watched it because it is satisfying. After hearing about so much injustice in the world, it’s cathartic to watch someone dole out their own special brand of justice even if it’s as simple as shooting with a gun. Criminals get their due comeuppance and our hero survives at the end, all is well. It’s why people enjoy subreddits such as justice served. Alas, the real criminals can’t be swiftly dealt with. Most of the criminals are products of their environments, of a lack of education. Of inept government services that merely want to maintain a status quo, the status quo. Those at the top, they are the real criminals. And no movie will be made like Death Wish in which they get their due diligence. The most we will get is that of the criminals they want gone, of how stories should be told so long as nothing upsets the status quo.

In regards to the acting, Bruce Willis tried somewhat here in contrast to his usual of just phoning it in for a paycheck. I can see he had fun with it, and his character came across as anguished. Vincent D’Onofrio as Paul’s brother, did quite well with what little had to work with. He played the angry uncle well. Camila Morrone as the daughter felt a little stiff and out of water, and turned out this was her first time acting in a feature film. Given that, pretty good for a first try. Elizabeth Shue as Paul’s wife was great for the little time she had as well, portraying fear for herself and her child during armed burglary. Lastly, Dean Norris as the detective in charge of investigation for Paul’s family was adequate as well. There was nothing special here needed, just someone that looks and acts the part of an older detective.

Closing thoughts, Eli Roth did a pretty good job with what he had to work with given that this movie is a remake of a series of movies and a book. His trademark bit of gore makes a couple appearances but thankfully nothing over the top, and actually went along with that catharsis for revenge. The villains were nothing special and simply pieces for the plot, no standouts here. I recommend watching this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Parasite (2019) Review

Do we dream of the best to happen to us, or do we just stand there in our wallow and with the inability to act? Is life a series of things that happen to you regardless of your own plan, or do you act with your own design instead? Does karma truly exist and are you fated to fall for any misdeeds, or be gifted with good fortune for kind acts?

Between the lines of the story of Parasite, one can tell that there are more deeper thoughts and messages at play beyond the surface level. The movie is like an onion, it has got layers. Yes, I went there. The point is, it is absolutely hilarious at times at the sheer absurdity of the situations at hand, while simultaneously being deeply disturbing in their nature. This horror itself is layered. It’s horrific in a multitude of ways but none of which are startling. It builds up a slow horror as you, the viewer, finally realize the plot at the hour mark. That same horror creeps and changes into a smile as you realize what’s to come. Will this madman actually take the story that way? Is what you’d think, and you start to laugh. It truly excels as being dark comedy. I miss this genre and I greatly enjoyed Parasite, and its addition to it.

The layers also take into account the framing of each scene. The camera work and the music combine to paint sombre portraits while managing to invoke a sense of hope and everything’s gonna be alright feeling. Everything adapts perfectly to the story and enhances it even further. There is also hidden imagery and symbolism to be found. It is a work of art. One of the better movies I’ve seen this year. It deserves all the awards it can get. Especially its actors. I loved the lead role. I’ve enjoyed his presence and acting since The Host.

I watched Parasite with a friend and he also had decreed that while a very enjoyable movie, it’s certainly got a degree of confusion and unexpectedness and that there’s probably more layers to it than either of us could find. I recommend seeing it for the sheer absurdity and original content. Really refreshing to see.