Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: The Invisible Man

Gods and Monsters (1998)

Next time you dress up as Frankenstein this Halloween, think about where the creation came from.

James Whale (Ian McKellen) is one of the most regarded directors of all-time. With such classics under his belt like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein, Whale had all of the fame and fortune that any man could ever afford to settle down and spend their last couple of years in utter and total harmony. However, Whale still pains from what his career could have and should have been, had he not been openly-gay and criticized for it his whole career, and it’s beginning to take more of a toll on him as the days continue to go by and his hair gets whiter. Then walks in his newly-appointed gardener (Brendan Fraser), and all of a sudden, Whale has found a new bit of inspiration in his life, whether or not it may just be sex or art. Either way, the man is happy and spirited again but his long-loving care-taker, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), doesn’t see it as being so happy or spirited. She senses trouble brewing in the air and she may be right, but James doesn’t care nor take notice to it. He’s just happy being him.

He likes what he sees.

It’s interesting to watch Gods and Monsters because, at first, you have a general idea of just where the story is going. You’d automatically assume that Whale, in his last gasp for life, starts something of a relationship with this hunky groundskeeper, reliving all of the lovely and enjoyable times of his past, while also realizing that life is beautiful, wonderful, and grand, and deserves to be lived, rather than not, only to then pass away right as soon as the going gets good. In a way, that sort of happens, but it sort of doesn’t, and it’s why Gods and Monsters remains a solid look at the life of someone that time may have forgotten about, but the movies he’s made, will continue to stand the test of time.

Which is neat, because after watching Gods and Monsters, you’ll soon realize that a lot of the issues prevalent in Whale’s own life, basically shined through his most famous works. Whale had a love and an affinity for showing the weirdo’s, or better yet, the outcasts, of society to the rest of the world. The movie’s many hints at this can tend to get a bit annoying, but that doesn’t make them any less true; making movies for Whale was less about making millions and millions of dollars, gaining respect, and getting the chance to hob-knob with some of Hollywood’s finest, as much as it was about expressing his true, inner-feelings of loneliness that haunted him his whole life.

Does that mean he didn’t have some fun while doing it all? Of course not, but still, we’re shown and told that there was something more here than just a bunch of fun-to-watch monster flicks. There was a heart, a soul, and an absolutely sad being behind it all.

But the movie doesn’t just harp on this one fact and drive it into the ground, as it’s actually more about this made-up guy known as Clay, as played by Brendan Fraser, and the type of relationship he builds over time with Whale. Like I’ve said before, this aspect of the movie could have easily been the most obvious and conventional one seen coming – man and man fall in love, realize something new about one another, etc. – but it doesn’t quite go that way. In fact, Clay doesn’t even know Whale is gay at first, and even when he does find out, he doesn’t quite care; personally, he just likes to hear the stories this guy has to tell.

Can you blame him?

It’s an interesting dynamic these two create and to watch as their relationship builds to something sweet, is quite nice. It also helps that Fraser and McKellen have great chemistry, seeming as if they truly are getting to know one another and getting along while doing it. Fraser has always gotten a bad-rap for being a bad actor, something that hasn’t always been true; just one look at his performance in Gods and Monsters, you’ll notice that he’s holding his own against McKellen, while also showing some signs of immaturity and growth needed. Basically, it’s what his character was going for and Fraser shows it, proving that when given the right material, he’s actually quite good.

McKellen, on the other hand, well, what can be said that hasn’t already been said before about him?

McKellen is an old pro who knows what he’s doing, which is why watching his performance as Whale can sometimes be a joyous experience, even if it does revolve around a great deal of sadness. McKellen shows us that there’s some true light, happiness and inspiration in Whale that somehow reignites once he meets Clay, but also doesn’t forget to remind us that there’s something truly heartbreaking about this character. We get the flashbacks, the dream-sequences, and of course, the stories, but where we really get the idea of something truly unsettling, is through McKellen himself. He plays Whale as an old man, getting older and more broken down as the days go by, proving to himself, that life can end.

But it’s the movies and the creations you release to the whole world, that really make it all meaningful.

Consensus: With two very solid performances from Fraser and McKellen, Gods and Monsters works as a smart, moving and rather sweet take on life, memories, and an aspect of Hollywood classics that most of us tend to look away from.

8 / 10

Best friends forever.

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Queer


Frankenweenie (2012)

Owen and Jen could have really used this movie as a tool for the sequel of Marley & Me 2: He Lives!

The story centers on a young boy named Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan), who loses his beloved dog Sparky and decides to harness the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor, but strange adjustments.

It seems as though every time somebody (including myself) goes into a Tim Burton flick, they are expecting the old, wacky Tim Burton that we all fell in love with in the first-place. When I went to see Dark Shadows earlier this year, that’s exactly what I expected but somehow, I was left down in the dumps and totally forgot that he even had another flick coming up. Thankfully, the return-to-form is back for Burton and this time, with no appearance from Johnny Depp. Wooo-weee!

There’s almost something for anybody in this flick, but for all of those film nerds out there, most will probably find the most amusement in pointing out all of the various, old Hollywood horror movies of yesteryear. Obviously, Frankenweenie is a riff off of Frankenstein, but there’s plenty other references/homages to be had here with tips of the hat to The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Invisible Man, and plenty more that may take you by surprise. Hell, I even feel like I missed some and that’s the whole fun of this movie, keeping a special eye out there to spot something just lingering in the background that may make your film nerd blood boil, and that’s exactly what happened to me.

However, it’s not all about the references and nods that Burton gives that makes this flick so much fun, it’s just the whole wacky atmosphere in general. Every single character in this film, is as colorful and goofy as the last one and just watching every single one come around and play for a little bit, brought a huge smile to my face. Sometimes, I even wanted Victor to just get out of his secret lair and run around town and see what all of the other little bastards he goes to school with do, because they were a hell of a lot more interesting than him and are so over-the-top and ridiculous, it made me feel like they could almost be kids I could have known when I was little. Then again, not many in the school I went to brought dead dogs back to life so obviously we never had to deal with any bullying or straight-up weirdness like these towns-people do.

What’s most surprising about the year of 2012 is not how The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers both came out in the same year, but how there have been not one, not two, but three stop-motion animated pictures in the whole year. This, to me, comes as a total random slap in the back of the head because I thought that this was practically a dead forsaken animated genre that people barely went out to see, and in ways, they don’t but that doesn’t mean that the films don’t look as every bit as purrty as that junk Ice Age 4, that every kid and their miserable mother went out to go see. Every single little piece of detail is calculated so perfectly in this film, that you can’t help but keep your eyes on the screen, not just because you may miss a funny little riff you weren’t expecting to see in a PG-rated movie, but because of how much time was obviously put into these characters, their surroundings, and the way that every scene looks and feels. There’s a certain line that Victor’s nutty science teacher uses about science and says something along the lines of how, “Science only works, if you put your heart and feeling into it.” That’s exactly what I felt coming from Burton here, not just with his story-telling, but the look and beautiful animation that caught my eye the whole hour and 25 minutes the film was up on-screen. Good job, Tim. You better keep this up, you son a of a bitch.

Where I think this film gets a little skewered with itself, was in it’s story-line and how I was left feeling non surprised the whole time. Now, that’s not to really put the blame on Burton or his crew as they obviously had all of the right ingredients for a great, original story that plays around with the idea of what Burton did in his early days of film-making, because most of the problem came from the trailers that played everywhere and practically spoiled the whole damn story. Seriously, everything you see or hear in the trailer, is literally the whole first hour, and everything else is sort of obvious as to where it goes from there. That bothered the hell out of me since every scene just felt like something I was expecting and something I have already seen before, considering this was an original story from the guy who directed and co-wrote it. Damn you trailers! Damn you!

Then, there’s the message of this flick that kind of left me a little scratchy-headed by the end. If anybody, and I do repeat anybody, has ever had a pet or companion or friend in their life, will probably get the feeling of, “Hmm, I wonder if I could bring them back.” I’ve often said this, as well as you have, and mostly everybody else has too. This is sort of the whole fantasy “what if..”-story take on it and plays out perfectly for the most part, but by the end, never really capitalizes on what it’s trying to say about dying and letting a loved one go. For a kids movie, the idea of dying and saying good-bye is a bit too dark and grim, but when you have a movie that presents itself in that way with those sorts of ideas, you shouldn’t back-down from bringing out any important messages that may go straight to the kids heads. It seems as if Burton missed that whole point, and without giving too much away, ends the film on a really strange-note that kind of left me wondering what kids are going to do when they get home. Most likely, they’ll be digging up old Betsie out of the backyard, prying some metal hangers onto her, and just waiting for the next storm to come on by, just because good old Tim Burton said so. Never mind about the trailers, damn you Tim! Damn you!

Aside from this whole screwed-up message that Burton seemed to have missed the boat on, you can’t help but love Victor and all of his interactions with Sparky because it will most likely have you remembering all of the good times you spent with your beloved pet. Every time Sparky would bark, yelp, lick, and jump on Victor when he came home from school, it had me smiling cause it made me think of two dogs that I’ve ever had in my life (Patton & Pearl, don’t judge), and made me want to go home and just play with the latter one. If you’re a dog lover, this whole aspect of the story will have an effect on you, as it did to me and you should definitely be ready for some tears to stroll right down the face, because that’s exactly what happened to me and I barely ever find myself crying in movies. That’s right, I’m a tough-ass so don’t try and break me.

Victor himself, is voiced by newcomer Charlie Tahan, who does a serviceable job but couldn’t help me forget that Victor was just a tad too dull to really hold my interest. Victor is nice, polite, quiet, and very soft-spoken, but is looked at as “the weird kid” from everybody else around from his own father, to the kids in his science class. Maybe making Victor this type of kid was sort of the point, but it didn’t do much for me and just made me want to see more scenes of him hangin’ out with Sparky or other people. More of Sparky than anybody else because I couldn’t get enough of that little guy.

Seeing that this is so-called “return to form” for Burton, it should be pretty understandable as to see him reunite with some vets of  in a very impressive supporting cast. Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short voice Victor’s parents and do a fine job at that, but are finally given the chance to let loose when they are allowed to voice the far more wackier characters and it’s nice to see them back in action, even if it is behind the screen; Martin Landau voices the spooky science teacher Mr. Rzykruski, and has this nice bit where he metaphors about immigration using lightening and even gets a nice scene where he tells all of the parents what’s on his mind, in his perfect Bela Lugosi-voice as well; and then there’s Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing, the weird girl next-door who is fine, but nothing special since she isn’t given that much to do here. Then again, it’s still good to see Ryder back in the saddle again and actually being given big roles in Hollywood productions.

Consensus: Frankenweenie is full of fun, light-hearted, goofy, wacky entertainment that may get a bit skewered with it’s message by the end, but is always a blast because it’s Tim Burton returning to what he used to do best: be weird and embrace it.