Wild Things (R)

7 Stars

If you read my reviews (and I don’t know why you would; it’s mostly blow-hardy nonsense) you’ll notice I attribute merit to elaborate fight sequences.

Literally, I believe there is narrative value in a masterfully choreographed battle. To give it antagonistic slant, it might be called ‘delighting in death.’

Why? For two reasons:

1)    I can cite two credible books on writing supporting the use of violence in stories (particularly those slated for a male audience).

2)    Show me a dude that doesn’t like the gunfight from The Matrix or the ‘one versus many’ battle between Neo and unlimited Agent Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded, and I’ll lose one more potential friend. Or even just the bar fight in The Replacements.

I feel the same about sexual content as I do violence.

It’s strenuous, but I must be even-handed about this movie; this film doesn’t deserve its stigma.

What stigma?

When I told a movie buff pal from college about watching Mulholland Drive, the reply text read: ‘Second best lesbian scene to Wild Things.’

The scene she (thought my friend was male, didn’t you?) refers to is when Denise Richards, Neve Campbell and Matt Dillon engage in a steamy threesome.

Yes it’s fun to watch, but wow it’s blown out of proportion.

This isn’t a pornographic film, Proverbial Audience.

Just because she’s scantily clad in most scenes, doesn’t detract from Richards’s performance as Kelly Van Ryan. She’s very good in this movie, just like in Starship Troopers.

Does Richards lose points for being super hot? She isn’t discussed very often.

Perhaps partially because Kelly’s midriff is bare in almost every outfit. But criticisms proclaiming an excess of skin don’t belong in my book.

So the movie is very sexualized. Without that tension, I don’t believe it’s half as enjoyable.

What is Body Heat without the sexual tension? How about Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct or Cruel Intentions or anything featuring James Bond?

[See those movies if you haven’t.]

Neve Campbell’s acting is very good. She comes off a little strong in the contrarian role. Perhaps it’s her liberal use of the ‘F-word.’

Overall she does a good job with a tough part, though.

Kevin Bacon’s solid as usual. For most of the movie he’s the thoughtful, more reserved Bacon, but towards the end a hint of his character from Diner peeks through.

Bill Murray is more reserved as well, doing more ‘bare bones’ acting than in his usual roles as the funny guy. His character’s quietly humorous, but compelling too.

Finally, Matt Dillon’s fine. I’m afraid he did what he could with a difficult role. Just like Campbell’s character, I’m not sure how to improve upon the acting performance. He could use a bit more characterization outside of being the ‘handsome and friendly smooth-talker.’

The problem is a generalized feeling you get. An awareness you’re viewing a movie that’s generally accepted as ‘good’ not ‘great,’ at its very best.

There are some minor details I can name that are more concretely weak. Such as the Van Ryan family’s ability to live above the law.

But overall, I wish I’d seen this when I was younger and unaware of the famous threesome scene. I’m afraid I would have enjoyed it more without the stigma in mind.

The greatest part of this movie is the additional scenes, featured at the beginning of the rolling credits. The shots tie up all loose ends (most of which the audience is unaware of), and twist the story in a few final (and rather satisfying) ways.

Overall, Wild Things is very good. It’s well made, features an intricate storyline and is just a lot of fun. Plus, it’s available for instant streaming via Netflix.

Movie fans! If you’ve been putting it off because you’re afraid the quality’s ‘ungood,’ now’s the time to watch it.

There. You have my permission.

Check Wild Things off the list.

Diner (R)

10 Stars

You gotta love a movie that holds up.

A classic movie of the highest order.

Written and directed by Barry Levinson, nominated for Best Screenplay in 1982 and set in Baltimore 1959.

I’ll try not to spoil anything, because if you like movies and haven’t seen this gem, you must catch it soon. It’s funny, poignant and has a spectacular cast.

I can’t get enough of Paul Reiser’s character, Modell. Good Golly he’s funny.

Discussing the concept of evolution, Reiser speaks one of my favorite lines, “The guy who makes up this stuff it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard – people do not come from swamps. They come from Europe.”

This line comes from potentially the best post-movie credit sequence I’ve ever seen (or rather, heard). It’s a philosophical comedic audio layover, a bonus diner conversation; an adequate apology for the abrupt freeze-frame ending.

I love how Reiser’s constantly hassling Steve Guttenberg’s character for rides. They’re all such close friends, Reiser manages to never actually ask for the lift, he always gets The Gute to offer.

A young Mickey Rourke is almost unrecognizable in this film. And he delivers a spectacular performance.

Daniel Stern’s character is also great, now that I think about it. You know him from Home Alone. His character is such a well-meaning fella. When he argues with his wife over his records, you don’t know who to root for, and it’ll set your heart-strings aquiver.

It can get dusty at times.

Stern also has a great moment with Guttenberg, when he explains that getting married doesn’t necessarily make life any easier.

Kevin Bacon’s character is, as always, excellently executed. He is like a tightly wound spring, but worth much more than first appears.

The minor character who memorizes the lines from “Sweet Smell of Success,” cracks me up every time he interrupts a conversation.

I’m not sure if women will enjoy this film as much as men. The themes seem very masculine; they reflect the subtleties of my interactions with my male friends. I’d be interested to hear if women feel like they really connect with certain aspects of the movie.

One might say Diner is misogynistic.

I say, “Feh!”

One could argue that the pacing is slow at the beginning, but personally, I won’t do so.

The only criticism I can muster is about the moment of most tension, the pinnacle of the film’s conflict. It gets resolved in such a quick fashion it might make your head tilt.

Otherwise, this is a spectacular film.

As always, don’t expect too much, and you’ll be oh-so-sweetly rewarded.