FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Skinwalkers

By BrianOrndorf

August 10th, 2007

Uh-oh, the Baby Huey of the horror genre, After Dark Films, is back, and this time they're ruining multiplexes with a werewolf movie. But not just any werewolf movie: a hastily-edited-to-a-PG-13 werewolf movie, with acting so dreadful it makes "Troll 2" look like a Mercury Theater production.

Skinwalkers

It seems an ancient curse that keeps werewolves alive is about to be shattered by a special 13-year-old boy’s prophecy-fulfilling birthday. Playing for the evil werewolves is Varek (Jason Behr), who leads his team of killers to the boy’s hometown for a hunt. On the flip side are the peace-loving werewolves, led by Jonas (Elias Koteas), who want the boy to live so their curse is broken. Counting down the hours until the prophecy takes hold, a war is waged between good and evil for the boy’s life, leaving his innocent mother (Rhona Mitra) in a state of shock.

What works in favor of “Skinwalkers” is that it isn’t a horror movie, but more of a monster picture. It doesn’t follow any currents trends in scare tactics, which is admittedly a nice change of pace. However, that’s where my praise of the film ends. After all, you cut out the werewolves, and what you’re left with is one idiotic movie.

Most of the blame can be pinned on director James Isaac, the man who previously gave the word the rotten, franchise-killing “Jason X.” Isaac doesn’t show all that much interest in werewolf lore, electing to lead the film into more action-oriented terrain, where more time is spent with bullets than horrific bodily transformations. Isaac is disturbingly comfortable with a majority of the asinine elements of “Skinwalkers,” from the generic (and unbelievably tedious) prophecy material to the costumes of Varek’s crew, who look more like roadies for the Allman Brothers Band than agents of part-dog doom.

Isaac also lacks a single clue how to instruct his actors, leaving them to their own devices for much of the film. With vacant pretty people like Behr and Mitra, this leads to great swells of silly soap opera reactions and fumbled emotional cues. Granted, “Skinwalkers” isn’t top-shelf screenwriting to begin with, but basic talent goes a long way to making mediocrity sparkle. Casting Jason Behr is not a step in the right direction.

The PG-13 curse strikes “Skinwalkers” in a very big way. With black blood replacement and profanity squeegeed off the film, this werewolf saga is sorely lacking any zest. The editing also wreaks havoc with the action sequences, with cuts and angles all over the place trying to cover up whatever made this film an R-rated venture in the first place. Also gone is the curious sensual element of the werewolf transformation. Apparently, when the werewolves blossom they burst into lustful stances, but in a PG-13 world, these scenes of sweaty, writhing bodies look more like a Spike TV cologne commercial.

One would think the combo of werewolves, Stan Winston’s make-up effects, and...well...werewolves would be more than enough to slap together a howlingly good time at the movies. However, put those elements in the hands of After Dark and it’s no surprise “Skinwalkers” is a stinker.

My rating: D