Tag Archives: Willem Dafoe

Brian’s Review – David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart” 1990

Barry Gifford’s neopulp novel inspired this controversial cult film from director David Lynch. A star-crossed couple on the lam (Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern) is in for the most gruesome ride of their lives when they encounter a handful of bizarre — and perhaps murderous — strangers (played by the likes of Sheryl Lee and Willem Dafoe).

“Wild at Heart” (1990)

Brian –

Rating: 7 out of 10

This is a film that at its very core is quite standard. It’s not like we haven’t seen a “lovers on the run” film before. Who they’re running from or why they’re running is really pointless. The idea is that you take lovers on the road and see what happens to them on the journey. David Lynch’s approach is to add a dash of Lynchian weirdness to offset that and give it its own identity and, in that vein, he’s successful. It reminded me a little of the Godard classic “Breathless” with its scenes with a couple inside small rooms, constantly on the run, and its climatic confrontation. However, where Godard was restrained and fun, Lynch is over the top, weird and violent.

There are two performances that really stand out to help lift this film from mediocrity. Ironically, both actresses come from the same family. Real life mother Diane Ladd and daughter Laura Dern are both excellent in their respective roles. Ladd displays an over the top evil with a level of self-absorption rarely seen in a fictional character. Dern meanwhile has a certain innocence. She’s hopelessly in love and in dire need for someone to take her away from her mother’s hold but she leaves a little opening that there might be a little bit of darkness under the surface. There are other good performances in small bit character:s Willem Dafoe, nearly unrecognizable behind the ugliest teeth ever, Harry Dean Stanton as a hopelessly pussy whipped man who will do anything for Ladd’s affection, and Crispin Glover in a small but funny part. Nicolas Cage however doesn’t fare as well. The dialogue sounds hokey and hackneyed whenever he’s speaking and any time he’s trying to be sincere it comes across as disingenuous. He’s fine whenever it is a scene of over the top emotion but he just cannot play straight drama.

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Visually, this is pretty restrained by Lynch standards. It has his usual strangeness added with quirky characters and weird colored costume choices but he seems to be holding back a little. I wondered whether a script that was essentially about a poor white trash Elvis meeting a rich Marilyn Monroe type on the road was weird enough that it didn’t need his usual flair. I also had issue with the ending. I won’t give it away but it tidied things up too easily. There’s way too much baggage between these characters to simply pretend that nothing happened. Also, why the happy ending? Cage’s entire existence revolved around a certain level of self-destruction. Why would it all come together for him? However, don’t let all my negative sentiments towards certain aspects hold you back from viewing it. If oyu’re any bit of a Lynch fan, you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not, you’ll probably rate this lower.


Earth’s population is up against a vicious plague that’s transforming everyone into vampires and draining the world of an increasingly precious resource: blood. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) and “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe) must decide what happens next. As the human race count nears zero, will vampires feast on the few men and women who remain, or could science hold the key to a less destructive solution? Sam Neill and Claudia Karvan co-star.

Shawn – TV-Tastic
Rating: 6 out of 10

The immediate gut-reaction for a film like “Daybreakers” is: “Oh, great… yet another vampire film, because that genre hasn’t been exploited enough over the past five years.” To be honest, that was my reaction when I first saw trailers for this in late 2009. The problem for Daybreakers, and most likely the reason for its miserable box-office numbers of $51 million total gross, is the producers marketed the film in some misguided attempt to hop on the bandwagon of other popular vampire franchises, such as “Twilight,” “True Blood,” and “The Vampire Diaries.” That was a very bad marketing decision.

Daybreakers is a very original and unique twist on the vampire genre in that it’s not really a horror film at all. It’s a classic science-fiction story that deals with science as a backdrop and asks many “what if” and “how would you react” questions about exploiting others for your own immortality. How does a society preserve its humanity when mortality has been taken away? As far as vampire films go, there is surprisingly little graphic violence until the very end of the film because, frankly, it’s really not necessary to progress the story.

Where the film ultimately suffers is that it is very short, with a running time of 97 minutes. For a science fiction story with such an original concept there is far too little exposition. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered and is so quick that the audience doesn’t really have an opportunity to become emotionally attached to the characters or the plot. The performances from DaFoe, Hawke, and the rest of the cast are fine but you really don’t have any sense of a vested interest in any of these characters. If the audience can’t relate to the characters, they have no reason to care about the story.

Daybreakers, albeit not the best film, is enjoyable and worth your time if you like a unique sci-fi story. Netflix subscribers can watch it as part of their subscription through the Netflix streaming service.


After their child dies, a therapist (Willem Dafoe) and his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) flee to their cabin in the woods, where they hope to mend their emotional wounds. But the grief-stricken couple watches their troubles multiply when very strange things begin to happen. Acclaimed Danish auteur Lars von Trier divides this tale into multiple narratives, revealing a surreal, horrific psychological adventure about the evils of nature, humanity and desire.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Director Lars Von Trier was battling horrible depression when he made this film and you can feel it right from the first frame. If any of you are familiar with his work, depression is a common theme in his films but it is taken to a new level here. The plot concerns a couple battling grief after the death of their son. They go to a remote cabin in woods to face their worst fears and end up finding something much worse around them and within themselves. All of the confrontations deal with much bigger issues concerning sex and pleasure, grief, good and evil, misogyny, nature’s cruelty, and the roles of God and Satan. It almost begs for repeated viewings if you can stomach the violence which includes genital mutilation amongst other things. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that this is not the kind of film that I easily recommend. Most of you will probably hate it due to the extreme nature of it. But, if you have enjoyed Von Trier’s work in the past, I think you will find something interesting and thought provoking that will touch on the dark side of human nature. This is an art film and a very effective one at that. Some directors try to gently bring their message while Von Trier is anything but subtle. I also have to mention how fantastic the two principle leads are. Both Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are simply stunning. They convey incredible emotion and believability, which is necessary for a film that requires its audience to suspend so much disbelief. So, I recommend but proceed at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Fantastic Mr. Fox

It is the story of one Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wild-ways of hen heckling, turkey taking and cider sipping, nocturnal, instinctive adventures. He has to put his wild days behind him and do what fathers are supposed to do best: be responsible. He is too rebellious, too wild, and he’s going to try one more big score on the three nastiest, greediest farmers in the county. It is a tale of crossing the line of family responsibilities and midnight adventure, the friendships and awakenings of this country life that is inhabited by Fantastic Mr. Fox and his friends, and ripping off the man. Directed by Wes Anderson (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Rushmore).

Rating: 8 out of 10

The great English actor Peter Ustinov (who won Academy Awards for his roles in Spartacus and Topkapi) once said good characters have contradiction. Every villain has to have a heart and every hero has to be a sinner.

Mr. Fox is a thief at heart. He tries to be a newspaper man after giving up his life of crime for his pregnant wife, but the itch never goes away. But at the same time, we root for him, and this is where Wes Anderson succeeds.

Anderson put together a great cast — George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Adrien Brody — who bring a brevity about being the voices of animals while not selling the characters short of being charming, villainous, or even sad.

This is a movie that children will enjoy — there’s no foul language or overt violence — but adults will be far more entertained by the subtle and not-so-subtle character development, jokes and gags that only we can get. This is a light-hearted story that is very enjoyable, stylish and witty beyond it’s simplistic stop-motion animation. This is a very smart film and I give Anderson a great deal of credit.