Quick Hit: Practical effects lead this western into some dark corners of American history.
I feel like Westerns have been making a comeback in recent years. Whether it’s the Western feel of films like Hold The Dark or Wind River, or the easily felt Western influence of something like Hell or High Water, it’s been a good couple years. However, one of the things that is severely lacking in our world is Western/horror crossovers. Westworld has shown that there can be some terrifying elements to the western – why don’t we have more of them? The only two that come to mind immediately are Ravenous and Bone Tomahawk. But luckily, Google exists, and I frequently find movies I’ve never heard of on lists that actually turn out to be good. That’s where today’s film The Burrowers comes in.
Set in the Dakota territories in 1879, a young family is attacked. Who are they attacked by? Is it Native Americans? Or is it something more sinister? A troop of men set out to find out. They feature John Clay (Clancy Brown, always solid), Will Parcher (William Mapother from Lost), and Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary). These men are eventually joined by a military escort led by the despicable Henry Victor (Doug Hutchinson). What Victor says is law out here in the American West, and he thinks he needs to shoot and torture his way through some Native Americans to find the white family. But Coffey, a young Irishman who is in love with one of the missing, thinks otherwise and his troop breaks off again.
Honestly, the whole Western portion of the film is terrific. So many Westerns are set up as slowly unfolding chases, and this is no different – the men think they are looking for a previously unknown tribe called The Burrowers. Unfortunately for them, a few things got lost in translation because really what they are looking for is underworld monsters that have developed a taste for flesh after the white man took all the buffalos from the plains.
It’s really a fun idea for a film, and it’s very well executed. Director/Writer J.T. Petty sets the stage and has a real handle on making his film reflect those films of years past. It even includes some great landscapes and shots of the land to further cement that. His creatures are hideous and scary, and obvious use of practical effects makes them seem so much more solid than most films seem to now. I also like the fact that he obviously considers men like Victor to be the real monsters of the story, as evidenced by his continued treatment of his fellow man, whether Irish, Black, or Native American. The ending, which I won’t spoil here, lends a lot to that.
On a side note – I’d like to mention that Doug Hutchinson is terrific at making you hate him. I remember that from The Green Mile, and here it’s no different – his Victor is absolutely the worst and makes you want to punch him in the throat.
Though the finale was a bit over-the-top – a few too many shots of Fergus getting all stabby could have really improved the look of those scenes – I liked The Burrowers quite a bit. It’s not going to win any awards, but I think most horror fans will be down with it. I’m giving it a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Never reaching farther than saccharine, the film somehow manages to maintain likeability without much of a plot besides that of a chessboard.
Ant-Man, the film started by Edgar Wright and finished by Peyton Reed, was fun, but didn’t really seek to add a whole lot of depth to either the characters or the MCU as a hole. It’s sequel manages to do some of both, but still comes off as feeling like there isn’t much at stake – part of the issue is coming off the huge stakes of something like Infinity War, but another part is just the scope of it – no pun intended, but it’s small.
Scott is now on house arrest after his adventures with Captain America in Civil War, which caused him to violate the Sokovia Accords – which haven’t been mentioned in a bit, but alrighty then. He hasn’t seen Hank or Hope in years, and then wakes up in the tub having a dream that featured Hank’s wife Janet – and so he calls them out of the blue, leading to a pseudoscience filled chase into the quantum realm. Second issues consist of Scott and his merry men attempting to get a business started in security and his continued bonding with his daughter as she seeks to be a part of her father’s new super powered world. Oh ya, and there’s the normal generic Marvel villain or two – but at least Ghost (played by Hannah John-Kamen) has a decent enough reason. She’s in constant pain and all she wants is to get out of it.
The plus side (size) of the Ant-Man series is that thus far it has been really entertaining. The humor is extreme and it’s a lot of fun to see the combat that can come from being tiny one moment and normal sized the next. It allows a lot of different things to play off of and you also get a chance to see things from a different perspective. Truth Serum makes an appearance here to hilarious effect, and there’s even an addition to the humor, Randall Park as a goofy agent who is Scott’s Friend/Parole Officer. It’s just good, clean fun as the kids would say. And Rudd, for his credit, dances the line between goofy and serious perfectly.
The downside is that it makes the stakes of everything seem so unsubstantial. Having Janet back in the MCU is going to be a huge thing, and obviously the quantum realm has been set up as something that allows some retcons to occur, but there just doesn’t seem to be any substance to it. There’s even giant nematode looking things in the realm, and I still greeted it with barely a shrug. And Walter Goggins, though at his Gogginsesquemost – is completely wasted as a bumbling arms dealer. While all of the action is going on, no one ever feels like they’re in any real danger.
But you know what? I liked it anyway. Peyton Reed and his writing team has given us another sweet and charming Ant-Man film, and I’ll watch it again, if only to hear more (Ant)onio puns. I’m giving this one a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Varied tonal output but some solid writing and acting carry this short across the finish line.
Joel (John-Patrick Driscoll) is a professor consumed by the search for a missing poet and her work. Eventually this leads him to lose his job, because he hasn’t been doing his normal job duties. He returns home to find his wife (Elsa Carette) cheating on him with another man (Dustin Kyle).
First, this short started and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I didn’t think it was going to be something that I thought about much later. In fact, the opening scenes of Joel in the office are very similar to another Don Swanson film I reviewed: A Wish For Giants. As the short continued, it evolved into a much deeper story, with some snappy humor and some deeply dramatic scenes. The drama mainly is pulled from the performance of Driscoll, who manages a lot on scenes when he is given a chance to flex his acting muscles. I thought some of the scenes later in the film were really effective because of his performance.
This performance clashed a bit with some of the humor in the film, which was probably my biggest issue with the whole thing. It caused a tonal imbalance between Driscoll’s performance and the work of someone like Dustin Kyle, who is just as good, but in a completely different way. Kyle really allows some of the lines to grow as he says them, and it makes them that much funnier (though I think Driscoll has the best line with his comparison of Kyle to Spartacus). But this doesn’t work very well with the images of Driscoll’s life falling apart, or the passionate sex scene that takes place in the short.
There are some other aspects to the film that don’t make sense, probably partially because of the short’s length (total including credits is only about 24 minutes). For instance, why doesn’t Kyle’s character cut and run? Why doesn’t Driscoll use some other formats to find this mysterious poet in his free time? And what makes Carette so deeply affected by his search? It’s all not quite laid out enough, even for a short film.
The only other complaint I had with the film was that the fight stunts probably need a little bit of work – there was some scenes that looked a bit like older Kung Fu movies with the rapid punching.
Despite the story shortcomings, there are other aspects to Swanson’s film I thought were well-handled. The set design was good, and always helped to tell the story of what was going on. I also thought the score played a huge part in the emotional ending, swelling at exactly the right portions with a beautiful, haunting piano medley.
In conclusion, I think that this film is a good step in the right direction, and that Swanson should be proud of what he and the team accomplished. I’m giving it a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"