Director Showcase: Joe Dante
Okay, it's taken a while, but what follows are reviews for every single movie Joe Dante has ever made. This is also available as three separate posts at candycorncomm
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So is that everything worth seeing in the film then? Well... not quite. There's a number of very good scenes. But first of all I feel that I ought to explain what definitely ISN'T any good in this film.
1) Brendan Fraser....
*gasp* "But he's really funny in other stuff!" ... Um.... that's what everyone was thinking, right? Heck, I was. I thought he was really good in "The Mummy Returns" (Just me? Okay....), I thought he was pretty funny in "Bedazzled" (especially after that one wish where he can suddenly speak Spanish) and I don't think anyone can deny that he made some of the funniest guest appearances on Scrubs.
But in this Looney Tunes movie? I'm afraid I didn't find him funny at all. He occasionally had a funny line and I'd listen to it and only notice that it was a funny line after the pause for laughter had passed me by. He just seemed to have no comic timing.
The problem wasn't even the script. Bugs and Daffy's banter with one another would often be pretty funny, but Brendan? *shrugs*
2) Third act problems. Yeah, movies often have that, but I have to say that in the last act I vaguely remember a runaway train and a bomb and all sorts, but I have absolutely no idea what actually happened. That is really NOT good.
3) Steve Martin. All previous problems pale by comparison to this one. If there was one person who sucked all the humour out of the movie it was Steve Martin. Basically times my issues with Brendan Fraser in this movie by about one million. He not only failed to show any ability in terms of comic timing, but actively lowered the mood of the whole film. I am actually prepared to go out on a limb and say that this film might be worth recommending if it weren't for Steve Martin's presence in it.
So, with the negatives out of the way, let's talk about what is good in this film.
1) Timothy Dalton. He has some rather naff stuff to do in the final act of the film, but when he first appears leaving a video message for his son (played by Brendan Fraser. Yeah, moving on.... ) while simultaneously fighting bad guys and hurling grenades, he's just awesome.
2) The whole scene in Area 52. Turns out Kevin McCarthy is only doing a cameo, but it's great all the same. Meanwhile the head of the Area 52 operation is led by Joan Cusack (who is brilliant). When the monsters escape naturally, what with Joe Dante being a classic horror movie geek, one of them comes from "This Island Earth". (Not only did they redo the Metaluna Mutant brilliantly, but one of the guys involved has a deviantart account
3) Obviously with Kevin McCarthy, Joan Cusack and some rather awesome monster effects all compounded into one point, I'm struggling a little to top that with this third point. However, I think it needs to be noted that the banter from Bugs and Daffy in the movie is actually really good. Admittedly you are talking to the guy who finds the new Giant Robot Love song
absolutely hilarious, but the point is that a movie centred around Bugs and Daffy needs to make the most of its central characters and I think, to be absolutely fair, this movie does.
Sadly, I have to finish by admitting that this film sucks. I'm still putting MOST of the blame on Steve Martin, but he can't be blamed for all of the problems. Not all of the slapstick running around works. There's a random music number that falls rather flat and the whole thing is a bit lacking wind in its sails. Still, as I said, there are several bits that are quite inspired. Once you've seen the Psycho reenacment above and the Area 52 scene
you've pretty much seen the best the film has to offer. Even if you count the odd little good bits elsewhere in the film, we're talking about a 90 minute movie with no plot of which two thirds is basically filler between jokes. That's really not very good.
Though interestingly the deleted scenes
show that this was clearly a pretty compromised work. Just check out
how Joe Dante originally wanted the movie to begin!D-Masters of Horror: Homecoming (2005)
Now this was pretty fun. Joe Dante is quite keen on combining horror and comedy, but that's not really what he did here. By his own admission, the horror only really comes from the concept: zombies. (We all love zombies, right?) I'm not going to give away what the zombies do, but it seems that Joe Dante was pissed off by George Dubyah Bush's presidency as much as the rest of us. Robert Picardo gets to be Karl Rove and Thea Gill gets to be absolutely incredible as Anne Coulter.
Admittedly none of the characters are known as the figures they are blatantly playing within the short film, but they don't need to be. If there's one thing you don't have to worry about here, it's subtlety. The message is fairly straightforward and there's no risk of a reference to Fox News or Guantanemo Bay passing you by. However, it's all a pretty clever idea and while the amount of time that's passed might take the impact away a little bit, the whole concept is quite amusing. I actually wish there'd been even more Thea Gill though. Her whole performance is absolutely brilliant. (IMDB reckons that one of the four things she's most well-known for is starring in a Uwe Boll movie. Someone seriously needs to correct this and fast.)
The ending of this is a bit cheesy, but then again so is the whole thing. It's cheesy satire from start to finish, but it's funny and original and, what can I say? I loved it.B+Trapped Ashes (2006)
To be absolutely fair to Joe Dante, this is five stories directed by five different people i.e. not him. All he is responsible for is the join in between and those joining bits are great. It's all the same actors, but somehow they seem to be much more entertaining when Joe Dante is directing. No surprise there... However, what holds together Joe Dante's connecting scenes is an excellent performance from Henry Gibson, one of Joe Dante's regular actors (like Dick Miller and Robert Picardo).
Of the individual stories in Trapped Ashes the best has to be the killer breasts storyline, directed by the recently deceased Ken Russell. It's really great fun and to be honest it's the only reason to watch Trapped Ashes. (Joe Dante's section isn't allowed to get very exciting in case it detracts from the main action. Even though it's actually more interesting than the short films even without much in the way of effects work.) I'm ashamed to say that of Ken Russell's work I've only really seen this and "Altered States" (oh my goodness I hated that film - particularly when a short clip from it was giving me nightmares as a small child
So yeah, the other stories are boring and I wasn't too impressed by the acting either. All in all this was pretty lame and one good story wasn't going to save it.E-Masters of Horror: The Screwfly Solution (2006)
Okay, so while Homecoming was only horror in terms of concept and was mainly played for laughs, this is absolutely horrific and has no humour at all. By the end, I suddenly realised that this is the most miserable film in Joe Dante's entire filmography. It's not bad, but it doesn't really feel like enough happens.
The premise is that something introduced into the atmosphere has caused men affected by it to kill every single woman they come into contact with. The men affected come up with a new misogynist sort of anti-procreation cult to justify their behaviour called "Sons of Adam". The situation is compared to a method used to reduce the population of screwflies.
Nothing wrong with the acting. Like I said, it doesn't feel like the story really goes anywhere. All in all this is actually pretty good, but oh my goodness it's so blooming miserable. Ugh.
So yeah, pretty solidly good episode. Don't watch when depressed.B-The Hole (2009)I have already written a review for "The Hole". It was originally posted here. I've re-posted the review below:
An attempt at horror-for-kids. Though we shouldn't think this is some new experiment. This is, after all, coming to us from the director of "Gremlins". (And the love interest is called Julie too!)
Two boys and their single mother have moved to a rural setting and aren't happy with the change. What's more there's a random hole under the house that, when they first find it, is covered by a trap door bolted to the ground by about five or six large padlocks. The hole definitely has something supernatural about it, but what is it?
Weird stuff starts happening (which began to raise my "ghosts without proper rules" alarm), but it's quite a tight script with everything linking together rather nicely. Some of the lines pull you out of the action a bit. The idea of the girl next door whose just been had an encounter with a strange young girl in white who "doesn't want to die" happily saying a few hours later "You've got a gateway to hell in your basement... and that is very cool!" Still, there's no doubting that this is great fun, acted well and well worth watching.
It's got everything you'd expect from the this sort of film, it flows well and it's imaginatively put together. It's just not a masterpiece.B+ (Very good. Not quite excellent)
X-posted in parts here