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House
House
by Frank Peretti
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from $0.57

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A house (and reader) divided., June 16, 2008
This review is from: House (Paperback)
There are times when I find myself reading a book, and thinking to myself, "What kind of movie would this make?". I experienced this throughout much of "House," and I must say, as a movie, this book would be almost unfilmable.

The book itself, in many instances, is almost unreadable. It has a decent-enough (if very cliched) setup, taking us to a secluded house run by a trio of Texas Chainsaw rejects, where two couples have arrived after running into pre-calculated car trouble. Next thing you know, a sinister man shows up with a set of rules for a twisted game of killing, the couples go running through a labyrinthian basement, people fight, shoot guns, etc.

The primary pothole that plagues "House" is its frenetic pacing and rotation of various plot threads. The amount of storylines and characters the authors juggle becomes problematic; the absurd nature of the plot itself only adds to the book's many issues. The characters themselves range from shallow to self-centered, leaving very little for readers to connect with. It's not for a lack of effort on the part of the authors; they seem intent to describe every single internal detail of these characters' thoughts, so much that it becomes a burden to the pacing of the story.

In addition to an ending that deserves a better story, but has been done before and far better, everything about "House" stinks of wasted potential. With a few less characters and less preposterous plot twists, this could have been a very involving read.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2008 8:38 PM PDT


No Title Available

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than your garden-variety thriller., April 25, 2002
"Murder by Numbers" belongs in that special category of thrillers in which the characters take precedence over the actual plot itself. The story line follows certain rules while breaking others, but in the end, it is the deep examinations of the people who populate the scenario that wins our utmost attention.
The film reminds me immensely of the early 1900's murder trial of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, two bright, astute boys who, for no clear reason, decided to murder a young boy in cold blood. Here, the action centers around an event that is very much the same in its calculation and detached feel. We are introduced to high school teenagers Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling), the rich and cocky aristocrat, and Justin (Michael Pitt), the loner who spends his time diffusing the workings of the law, from forensics to detective skills.
No sooner do we find out that these two completely opposite people are friends, than we learn that they have been planning a murder during the course of their friendship. We sense a feeling of hesitation eminating from Justin, as Richard placates him about his constant need for planning without any payoff. From such a scene, we are to gather that Justin is the brains while his partner is the brawn.
But it goes much deeper than first expected. There is a murder, that which we do not see, but discover as a crime scene is examined. There are various clues that, we gather, were left behind intentionally, from a strand of human hair to a carpet fabric from an unknown source. Later, we find that this ties in with their master plan of alluding the authorities to other sources and suspects.
Once things pick up after hard-hitting detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) takes on the case and begins questioning the two troubled youths, the film stops at various points to examine small glimpses of the two boys interacting with one another. Each boy feels he is being masterminded by the other, though it certainly appears as if Richard is having more of the fun. There are even hints at a possible homosexual relationship between the two: in one particular scene, after Justin becomes involved with a female classmate, Richard confronts him. Is he anxious about whether or not his partner in crime revealed any possible information, or is there a slight jealousy in his furor?
It's these examinations and poignant moments of feeling that make "Murder by Numbers" better than it would have been had it followed the regular cat-and-mouse formula for the genre. The plot itself does tend to sway into predictability, and even the film's opening sequence sets us up for later events to come, but director Barbet Schroeder manages to keep things moving at a fluid pace, introducing new evidence for Cassie to divulge, despite her insistant boss, who believes she is overdoing her work, and her partner, Sam (Ben Chaplin), who feels she holds a grudge after he cracks the case. Or so he thinks.
But Cassie refuses to let go of her belief in the two boys' guilt. Under Sandra Bullock's convincing performance, she makes an otherwise routine subplot involving a past trauma that ties her emotions to present events believable. Chaplin's character isn't given much to do during the film except provide emotional support for Bullock; on that, he succeeds admirably.
It is Gosling and Pitt who steal the show, however, bringing us into the complex, morbidly intriguing nature of their friendship so that we have a somewhat faded picture of their psyche. I like that fact that some elements of their friendship are left to suggestion through friendly gestures and embraces; it incites us to think about what motivates them. Does Justin do it to satisfy Ryan's lust for action? Why do these two souls choose to interact, even as their crime tears them apart emotionally? Deciphering questions like this is all part of the fun, and they make "Murder by Numbers" more than your garden-variety thriller.


Thinner [VHS]
Thinner [VHS]
VHS
Offered by fatcat
Price: $4.98
49 used & new from $0.01

19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The film is incredibly tough to swallow., April 21, 2002
This review is from: Thinner [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I think the thing that surprises me the most about Tom Holland's "Thinner" is that it was released theatrically. Based on the novel by the infamous horror writer Stephen King, this adaptation of one of his better-known books feels more like a direct-to-video release than a big-screen feature, with its low production values and overall cheap appearance. Having said that, the movie itself is entertaining to a point, after which, like many of King's novels (or movies based on them), it just flatlines.
The story centers around attorney Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke), whose string of successes have made him a name in his small town. He has a wife, Heidi (Lucinda Jenney), and a young daughter, both of whom have issues about his serious weight problems. "I can't stop thinking about food," he tells his wife in the car on the way home from a celebration dinner, to which she responds with A) the statement "There's more to life than just food," and B), a timely session of... well, you'll see.
Of course, during the "act," Billy fails to notice the old Gypsy woman crossing the street, and strikes her with his vehicle. Given his status among the townspeople (coupled with the fact that almost everyone we meet in the film is prejudiced against gypsies), Billy receives little more than a slap on the wrist, after which he is greeted by the dead woman's father (her father?), who brushes his cheek and chants the word "thinner."
Now I'm sure I don't have to tell you exactly what happens to Billy, who, despite his efforts to maintain a stable weight ("I'm digesting 12,000 calories a day!" he later tell his wife), loses 40 pounds in no more than two weeks. And the fat grams just keep flying, to the point where Heidi insists he check himself into a nearby male clinic, disbelieving of his theory that he has been cursed by the old gypsy man, whom he later sets out to find with the help of a vigilante he helped set free in a case.
If this all sounds rather hokey to you, that's because it is. The problem is, if my synopsis gives you this notion, then you're much better off leaving your experience with "Thinner" at this exposition, and avoiding the movie at all costs. Even for a Stephen King adaptation, the film is incredibly tough to swallow; the beginning and mid-section fares somewhat nicely, setting us up for a third act that showcases some nifty yet under-imagined make-up tricks (like we really couldn't guess that he was wearing a fat suit from the beginning), but fails in regards to giving us a sturdy conclusion that's worth waiting for.
Aside from the low-budget look of the film, there's not a great deal of commendable acting to be dealt with, either. Burke has some effective moments of biting humor, but he fails to register much in his confrontations with his wife, nor do we ever care much for him as a person wasting away as a result of his wrongdoing. The wife and child are basically stand-ins for those pesky times when the film needs some refreshment from slingshot-wielding gypsies and subplots involving two men who share a similar fate to Billy as a result of letting him go without punishment.
There is an intriguing premise underneath the mess that is "Thinner," but the story and its execution follow a pattern very much akin to its main character's descent from obesity.


No Title Available

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite funny despite its lack of something more., April 21, 2002
Before one ventures to theaters to see Cameron Diaz's latest turn in "The Sweetest Thing," one thing must be made clear: the light-hearted romantic comedy you saw in the film's previews speaks whispers of what the movie actually is. An awkward combination of girl-power antics, slapstick shenanigans and gross-out humor ranging from "bust your gut" hilarious to "is she doing what I think she's doing?" weird, the film surprises in that it's actually quite funny despite its lack of something more fully developed.
Sporty pixie Diaz plays Christina, a love-'em-and-leave-'em go-getter who suffers from a lack of committment to relationships. She has two close friends: Courtney (Christina Applegate), a feisty divorce lawyer who harps on Christina for being lonely, and Jane (Selma Blair), who is undergoing a relationship crisis which lands them at a techno club, where the trouble begins.
Of course, the movie has already hit some troublesome spots of its own. There's the usual cliches of characters who hold down high-paying jobs they are never seen working at, that which provides them with tasteful, high-class living quarters and the ability to party all night long. And, in times of strife, they all stick together, forming that patented girl power stronghold that has been seen in so many movies before this one, and done better, I must say.
The story gets its focus when Christina crosses paths with Peter (Thomas Jane), an out-of-towner having one last night out before his brother's wedding the following day. After a rocky introduction, the two obviously become smitten, but part ways, leaving Diaz wondering what it would be like if she just took a chance for once. Courtney comes up with the perfect answer: travel three hours to Peter's brother's wedding to get another chance to talk to him.
This is where the movie turns into a mad-cap road trip replete with a substantial dosage of toitet humor (literally!), gags involving flying, maggot-covered leftovers that careen into their windshield, and even a sequence of Diaz and Applegate dancing around in little more than panties and bras to a song from their childhood, providing for one of those female frienship bonding moments the movie keeps injecting whenever it feels the need for a shot of humanity. The events that take place when they arrive at the wedding are not unforeseen (if you've seen the previews, everything is pretty much easy to follow), and once it's all over, it feels as if its only just begun.
The comedic gags are more weird than shocking; one doesn't exactly expect to see Applegate's character actually using a urinal in the men's bathroom, nor does one ever really see a gag involving Aerosmith's "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," tonsils, and pierced genitals coming their way.
Imagine my surprise when all of this jumbled, at times messy material, actually delivers real belly laughs at the expense of its hair-brained characters and enthusiastic cast. Diaz, Applegate, and Blair inhabit characters who aren't completely developed, but their ability to cast caution to the wind and just revel in the spirit of the movie is amusing and enlightening. There were times when I found myself wanting something more out of the humor, and then there were moments of sheer lunacy and comedic perfection that had me in tears.
These elements may prove to be the only sweet aspect of "The Sweetest Thing," but for the most part, they're more than enough. Like last month's "Sorority Boys," this film proves nothing about relationships, love, or even moviemaking, but the good news is, it doesn't have to.


No Title Available

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars We learn little when we should be learning droves., April 21, 2002
"Iris" falls into a category of movies I like to call "Sleeper Weepers," meaning you'll either be weeping for the film's main character, who undoubtedly goes through much tribulation and hardship, or you'll be rubbing your eyes open from sheer boredom and listlessness as the movie drones on and one seemingly without end. I was not impressed with the film: it moves at a dreary, lifeless pace that doesn't really peak the interest in its main character, Iris Murdoch, of whom we learn little when we should be learning droves.
From the start, we get the feeling that Murdoch's life was one of great achievement; the film's opening scene that introduces Dame Judi Dench as the older version of the British author show her giving a speech about life, education, the mind, etc (Kate Winslet plays the young version). No sooner have we started to get to know Iris as an spunky old lady, than we are transported back in time to her early years, in the years when she first met her future husband, John Bayley (played young by Hugh Bonneville, played old by Jim Broadbent), who is intrigued by her seemingly ageless zest for life.
The film does well in casting Dench and Winslet, their performances breathing life into Murdoch in a manner that the film realizes only in glimpses. Dench fills the room with a great presence, while also adding what she can to the emotional strings, as her character begins to fall to the clutches of Alzheimer's disease. Winslet is uniquely charming, full of verve and tenacity. Bonneville portrays the young Bayley with a boyish naivety that makes their delicate relationship even more touching in certain moments, while Broadbent shapes the older, learned man into someone devoted to his love through good times and bad.
It's only a shame that these touching moments come as mere glimpses, cast into a canvas that, despite a somewhat short running time, seems endless and ongoing. The movie sees fit to shove symbolism and the elements of loss and love down our throats without abandon, which would work had director Richard Eyre been able to inject some measure of emotional resonance into the proceedings. What we get, in between the interspersed moments of real resonance, is a rather sloppy series of transitions between past and present, those which deaden any feeling we've begun to develop for Murdoch or Bayley.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in "Iris" is the lack of overall feeling one gets from watching Murdoch's life unfold in such a wearisome manner. The acting, the small touches of witty humor and real emotion, don't neccessarily go to waste, but they don't receive the full realization they so truly deserve.


Wishmaster
Wishmaster
DVD ~ Robert Englund
17 used & new from $2.02

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars My first (and last) wish is never to see "Wishmaster" again., April 21, 2002
This review is from: Wishmaster (DVD)
My first wish after seeing "Wishmaster" is never to see "Wishmaster" again. The film is billed as a Wes Craven production, and it shows in almost every aspect of its creation. The story lacks the potency and credibility that Craven, as a director, has mastered many times over; the acting consists of one-note performances that bog the characters down; the gore, oh the gore, fills pretty much every other scene with grizzly images of disgusting viscera that is neither shocking nor frightening.
The biggest disappointment is that the film never rises above the level of straight-to-video releases that dominate rental shelves nowadays. It begins with a narration that relates the history of the Djinn, a mysteriously powerful entity capable of granting three wishes to one who would summon such a spirit from his prison, a rather large, valuable gemstone. Of course, these wishes do not come without a price, that being that the wish itself is not exactly what its wisher intends.
Case in point: when released upon the streets of New York after the precious gem is discovered in an artifact statue shipped across the Atlantic, the Djinn is freed and ready to wreak havoc. He takes the face of a human as a disguise; later, when buying an expensive suit, he asks the store clerk what she wants more than anything in the world. "To be beautiful forever," she replies; he, in turn, tranforms her into a store mannequin.
The concept isn't entirely without originality; a dark spin on the three wishes scenario hasn't really been done. It's a shame that after "Wishmaster," it still has yet to be done in a manner that does it justice.
There is a story, albeit a very tepid one. Young gemologist Alexandra (Tammy Lauren), who works for an auction house, is given the gem to study its value and worth. She sees something in her microscope, and asks a friend to run some tests on it, unaware that she has awakened the Djinn, and will be the one chosen to make three wishes in order for the rest of his kind to be freed from the void between worlds. The problem with this plot is that it never breaches the bounds of predictability; we know what's going to happen, how it will happen, and what will come next.
Of course, this allows the filmmakers to dabble in visual excess, supplying the audience with a cornucopia of violence, bloodshed, and gruesome gore effects. The opening scene that sets up the back story of this menace features some nice effects work, though as the road becomes long and ever-so-cumbersome, each new effect is just another notch in the dashboard. Once the ending rears its ugly head, crowning the movie is a cliched bloodbath of mutilation, bodily fluids and high-pitched screams from unconvincing extras, it's all gone to hell in a handbasket.
A cast composed mostly of unknowns make for some awkward moments of unbelievable emotional outbursts and feeling. Lauren is hardly star material, her forced facial expressions and uneven force unable to give us a feel for Alexandra's situation. Andrew Divoff, as the Djinn, is the sole saving grace of the film; he supplies just enough acting relish to give the antagonist a humorous approach in certain moments. Of course, cockiness and gore do not make up for lapses in the storytelling department, where "Wishmaster" fails to make good use of the concept it so blatantly smothers.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2011 2:25 PM PST


No Title Available

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Frailty" is a special film, a thoughtful, quiet thriller., April 19, 2002
Those who happen to catch "Frailty" in theaters will no doubt be reminded of the defense case of convicted murderer Andrea Yates, who took the life of her five young children in what was described by her lawyers and supporters as her attempt to save them from the hellfire. The case was thought-provoking, and a cause for controversy that forced the public to ask themselves, "What defines insanity, and furthermore, sanity?"
The psychological elements of "Frailty" work in very much the same manner, posing us that question in a forthright manner that is shocking, brutal, and completely immersive. It possesses a brainy, intricate plot, well-drawn character relationships, and an ending that begs its audience to begin arguing.
The movie begins with a meeting, of sorts, between FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe), and Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey), who claims to have information about the identity of the God's Hand killer, the case Doyle presides over. There are some initial revelations that are placed on the table upfront, one of which is Fenton's statement that his brother, Adam, is the killer; Doyle is disbelieving, but intrigued enough to listen to what Fenton has to say.
Fenton jumps back in time to his childhood, revealing the relationship between he, Adam, and their father, played by Bill Paxton who is known throughout the film as "Dad." We see them as a family, tightly knit as a result of their mother's death, made stronger by their dependence on one another. The film makes it clear that Paxton's character is a devoted father, loving of his children, and willing to do anything to protect them. His children, in turn, mirror these qualities.
One night, things change. The father wakes his children up in the middle of the night to tell them of a vision from an angel, who spoke to him about his role as God's servant in destroying demons who walk the earth in human form. He claims that when he places his hands upon the person, he can reveal them for who they really are. He further informs them that he will be receiving weapons and a list of those to be destroyed. In any other movie, the father would be an abusive wretch bent on exacting bloody justice; the fact that he is a loving and caring father makes this new development all the more unsettling.
The younger, impressionable son, Adam, willingly accepts his father's statement (in one moment, he asks his father, "Are we going to be superheroes?"). Fenton, on the other hand, believes it is all a bad dream, until his father brings home a young woman in the middle of the night, carries her into their shed, and takes an axe to her. Such scenes are handled exquisitely, choosing to keep the gore almost non-existent, thereby increasing the shock factor. The presence of the children in the midst of such violence is brutal, a testament to the film's honest approach.
The way in which Paxton carries out these events, both as an actor and as a director, is spellbinding. In front of the camera, he portrays the father with a believable conviction of his faith, matching the religious fanaticism and lunacy of Piper Laurie's Mrs. White in "Carrie." In the director's chair, he handles the material nicely, balancing the supreme chills with the ongoing argument of divine intervention that remains intact and fruitful. The two story lines, past and present, weave into one another fluidly without losing interest, and McConaughey provides his character with a tidal wave of mystery that keeps us waiting for the final resolution.
Without revealing the major twists, the film's ending is that rare gem that works with and against it. A surprise twist carries with it some new developments, some that work, others that may disappoint. The only real problem I had with this ending is its negation of the film's earlier neutrality in regards to "Dad's" actions: rather than taking a stand for or against his actions, the movie allowed its audience to make its own decisions. The final resolution detracts from this, and some may not be so welcoming of a tactic that goes against their own decisions and theories.
Even still, it works well with the rest of the material, and in looking back at the ending, I'm reminded of how the film challenged me to think, of how it worked me in ways many other films fail to. Bill Paxton's career as an actor shines here, and his start as a director is promising. "Frailty" is a special film, a thoughtful, quiet thriller with enough brains, realistic chills, and effective energy to make up for its few, easily forgiveable flaws.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2011 2:31 PM PST


No Title Available

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smart and cooly calculated., April 19, 2002
"Changing Lanes" is everything that its trailer is not, and that's a good thing. Movie previews for this refreshingly different thriller tout it as a fast-paced revenge machine, but in actuality, it moves at a much slower speed, developing its story and characters in a manner that brings us into their lives rather than placing us on the sidelines. The ending is a bit meak, but the suspense is non-stop, the acting superb, and the overall effect a satisfying one.
The beginning keeps details at bay, introducing fragments of the puzzle that will later come together. Ben Affleck plays Gavin Banek, a successful young attorney who has been sent by his firm to deliver important files concerning A) a charitable institution, and B) a very disgruntled granddaughter of its now-deceased founder. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we meet Samuel L. Jackson's middle-class father, Doyle Gibson, who is in the process of taking out a loan for a home in the hopes that his ex-wife will accept the action as a peace offering instead of taking their two children to Oregon.
The two men are both on their way to the courthouse. They have an accident after Banek attempts to change lanes, causing Gibson to careen into a freeway divider. Gibson wants to exchange insurance information ("I wanna do things the right way"); Banek, in a frenzied rush, gives him a blank check and speeds off, unaware that in his search for his checkbook, an important file landed on the street. Gibson retrieves the file, thumbs a ride to the courthouse, too late to make his statement in the custody case; Banek, who discovers his file is missing, is given an end-of-the-day deadline to come up with the document.
This all occurs within the first twenty minutes of the film, but not to worry: there's more to it than what we've seen, or what we think will happen. Much of what goes on centers around the important document, that which delegates the power to make decisions for the institution to the law firm. Banek lies to his two partners, telling them the case was ruled in their favor to tide them over while he attempts to get the file back from Gibson.
This is where the good gets even better, as the two men engage in a battle of wills and wits. It's like a game, really, an ongoing silent war in which a double-cross is payed back within the hour. Banek enlists the help of a hacker known for his ability to "help out with things that need helping out." He infiltrates Gibson's bank accounts, bankrupting him of his precious loan ("I need this loan for my life," Gibson later pleads with the teller), setting in motion a chain reaction of events that lead to an uncertain destination.
I must say, the film packs a real whallop in its first and second acts. The somewhat slow pacing is in its favor, allowing us to understand the characters while at the same time putting real effort into the explanations of various plot twists and new developments. There is an underlying web of deception underneath the action that centers around the document, the law firm, and the institution, that which I will not reveal. This subplot turns out to be the basis for the thrills, and it is smart and cooly calculated without insulting one's intelligence.
Also backing the film is its terrific cast, featuring two leads who play off one other so well, they could carry the movie by themselves. Jackson is a man of many virtues, and he displays a versatility here that is mesmerizing and intense. We feel for this man as a father, and as a person, and can come to understand his reasoning. Affleck has found a role befitting of his acting ability; there is a diversity of emotions to Banek's character, much of which revolves around being held at the whim of a man he hardly knows, and Affleck portrays this exquisitely.
The film worked for me right up until the ending, a well-intentioned morality lesson that doesn't quite live up to the goals the material sets for itself. But to think about it further is to realize that there is really no other way for "Changing Lanes" to end without descending into the ludicrousness that plagues most thrillers; the ending we are supplied with is safe while not being totally satisfactory. Up until this point, there are thrills, surprises, and acting gusto aplenty, making the experience an enjoyable and involving one.


No Title Available

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wets one's appetite for something more., April 18, 2002
The most surprising (and perhaps disappointing) aspect of Christophe Gans' French genre-bender "Brotherhood of the Wolf" is how similar it is to the ways in which American films attempt to outdo themselves with flashy fight choreography and special effects. Let it be said that the film is an unusual success, but a narrow one at that. The visual bravura of the film, from the scope and scale of its landscapes, to the action and thrills, are put on display without abandon, though the story is meak in many places, and the film never really goes over the edge like it should.
The film is book-ended by narration, which carries us into the 18th century, at a time of unrest. The lands of Gevaudon in France are inhabited by those who live in fear of a creature known as the Beast, whose habits are never fully realized until the end, providing it a fitting aura of mystery. Called in to investigate the ongoing case and bring the Beast's reign of terror to an end is Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a scientist wary of the tall tales he believes the townsfolk are telling. At his side is Mani (Mark Dacascos), an Iroquois Indian who, strangely enough, has mastered the art of kung-fu.
The premise is based rather loosely on a French urban legend centering on a mythical beast that rampaged the lands of Gevaudon. For some reason the movie never explains, the Beast only attacks women and children, but runs from men; it fears no firearms, and has garnered a terrific amount of attention from the people of the region. After a few instances and a glimpse for himself of the monster, Fronsac is able to see that it has been fitted with armor, leading him to believe that it is under the control of someone using it as a tool for some dark purpose.
That purpose is connected to the history of France, but without much resonance or interest. The film's attempts to inject a political fervor into the story fail for the most part; in effect, there are long periods of extreme tedium as the movie picks itself back up for another round of action. There are various different subplots involved, ranging from romantic involvement between Fronsac and a noblewoman, and his involvement with a prostitute who knows more than she is willing to reveal.
Of course, a movie like "Brotherhood of the Wolf" is not interested in keeping up a coherent appearance; it's plot is basically an outlet for its stylistic vision. For a good amount of running time, this tactic is a success, featuring some terrific action choreography and fight sequences that dazzle the eyes. Overall, the film possesses a gorgeous look, that which juxtaposes the magnificent beauty of the lands with the decrepit nature of the dark underworld that awaits the audience in later moments.
But, there's a part of me that can't overlook how American this un-American film actually is. The eye-popping fights and action, the special effects used to make the monster look more like a CGI model than an actual menace, keep the movie from being a truly striking experience rather than just an interesting one. At times, Gans is too confident that style can pass as substance; in some instances, this works, but there needs to be some defining of the story to hold our attention.
Overall, I recommend the film. It's a gorgeous costume drama/horror thriller/period piece/romance meller that occasionally tends to sweep the viewers off their feet into another time and place without fail. If anything, "Brotherhood of the Wolf" wets one's appetite for something more, something that will one day truly set a new standard in filmmaking.


No Title Available

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Frailty" is a special film; a thoughtful, quiet thriller., April 18, 2002
Those who happen to catch "Frailty" in theaters will no doubt be reminded of the defense case of convicted murderer Andrea Yates, who took the life of her five young children in what was described by her lawyers and supporters as her attempt to save them from the hellfire. The case was thought-provoking, and a cause for controversy that forced the public to ask themselves, "What defines insanity, and furthermore, sanity?"
The psychological elements of "Frailty" work in very much the same manner, posing us that question in a forthright manner that is shocking, brutal, and completely immersive. It possesses a brainy, intricate plot, well-drawn character relationships, and an ending that begs its audience to begin arguing.
The movie begins with a meeting, of sorts, between FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe), and Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey), who claims to have information about the identity of the God's Hand killer, the case Doyle presides over. There are some initial revelations that are placed on the table upfront, one of which is Fenton's statement that his brother, Adam, is the killer; Doyle is disbelieving, but intrigued enough to listen to what Fenton has to say.
Fenton jumps back in time to his childhood, revealing the relationship between he, Adam, and their father, played by Bill Paxton who is known throughout the film as "Dad." We see them as a family, tightly knit as a result of their mother's death, made stronger by their dependence on one another. The film makes it clear that Paxton's character is a devoted father, loving of his children, and willing to do anything to protect them. His children, in turn, mirror these qualities.
One night, things change. The father wakes his children up in the middle of the night to tell them of a vision from an angel, who spoke to him about his role as God's servant in destroying demons who walk the earth in human form. He claims that when he places his hands upon the person, he can reveal them for who they really are. He further informs them that he will be receiving weapons and a list of those to be destroyed. In any other movie, the father would be an abusive wretch bent on exacting bloody justice; the fact that he is a loving and caring father makes this new development all the more unsettling.
The younger, impressionable son, Adam, willingly accepts his father's statement (in one moment, he asks his father, "Are we going to be superheroes?"). Fenton, on the other hand, believes it is all a bad dream, until his father brings home a young woman in the middle of the night, carries her into their shed, and takes an axe to her. Such scenes are handled exquisitely, choosing to keep the gore almost non-existent, thereby increasing the shock factor. The presence of the children in the midst of such violence is brutal, a testament to the film's honest approach.
The way in which Paxton carries out these events, both as an actor and as a director, is spellbinding. In front of the camera, he portrays the father with a believable conviction of his faith, matching the religious fanaticism and lunacy of Piper Laurie's Mrs. White in "Carrie." In the director's chair, he handles the material nicely, balancing the supreme chills with the ongoing argument of divine intervention that remains intact and fruitful. The two story lines, past and present, weave into one another fluidly without losing interest, and McConaughey provides his character with a tidal wave of mystery that keeps us waiting for the final resolution.
Without revealing the major twists, the film's ending is that rare gem that works with and against it. There are revelations aplenty, those that work, and those that do and don't simultaneously. The negation of the film's earlier neutrality in concern to the father's carryings-on is slightly disappointing; this choosing of sides and a murky role reversal don't altogether work in the material's favor, but they do, however, provide a nice surprise twist that casts predictability and convention into the wind.
And even now, thinking about the ending, I'm reminded of how the film challenged me to think, of how it worked me in ways many other films fail to. Bill Paxton's career as an actor shines here, and his start as a director is promising. "Frailty" is a special film, a thoughtful, quiet thriller with enough brains, realistic chills, and effective energy to make up for its few, easily forgiveable flaws.


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