Jack Reacher (2012)

jackreacher_1Starring Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Vladimir Sizov, Joseph Sikora, Michael Raymond-James, Alexia Fast, Josh Helman, Robert Duvall

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

Expectations: Really low.


The marketing for Jack Reacher — at least the one trailer I saw — did the film a disservice by playing up Tom Cruise’s badass character and completely avoiding the fact that the film is a mystery. Thankfully for me, I like mysteries and badass dudes so it was a win-win for me. But if I’m being completely honest, the main reason that I cared to see this one was Werner Herzog. My love for Herzog and his sweet, dulcet tones were enough to make me brave this movie for which the trailer instilled zero interest in me. Herzog is barely in the film and he’s only given one real standout scene, but that honestly didn’t matter so much as the film’s mystery is pretty fun to unravel.

But make no mistake: some of the stuff in this movie is flat-out preposterous. Like how Jack Reacher becomes involved in actively working on the case even though he’s a rogue loner with no agency affiliations. Sure, he used to be a military police officer, but “used to be” doesn’t usually cut it when it comes to investigating murder cases. If the movie wasn’t any good, you could really hinge a whole review on this moment as the point of no return. But the movie is pretty good, so we can overlook a couple of suspension of disbelief issues to get our guy into a few good movie situations.

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Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

aguirre-wrath-of-god-german POSTERAguirre, the Wrath of God [Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes] (1972)

Starring Klaus Kinski, Helena Rojo, Del Negro, Ruy Guerra, Peter Berling, Cecilia Rivera, Daniel Ades, Edward Roland

Directed by Werner Herzog

Expectations: High, but I’ve got a bad, pretentious feeling for some reason.


There aren’t many movies you could call both boring and captivating, but Aguirre, the Wrath of God is just that and more. It’s an enigmatic film, incrementally drawing you into its slow-moving and somewhat surreal world, and testing your sanity along with the characters’. From what I’ve seen of Herzog’s filmography, he’s long been fascinated with characters that push the bleeding edge of the human mind, characters that left the point of no return behind long, long ago. Aguirre, the Wrath of God is simultaneously a stunning Herzog film and an impenetrable one, reminding me of how I felt after watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time, which is to say I’m a bit perplexed and will need to watch this one again to really get down on it.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God is about a 16th century expedition up the Amazon to find the city of gold, El Dorado. It’s a fool’s errand, of course, but that doesn’t stop these Spanish conquistadors from relentlessly pushing forward in spite of every odd stacked against them. Klaus Kinski plays Aguirre, the group’s second-in-command and lead nutjob. He quickly asserts his power and controls the men through wild promises of untold riches that await them ahead.

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Into the Abyss (2011)

Starring Fred Allen, Jason Burkett, Melyssa Burkett, Werner Herzog, Michael Perry, Jeremy Richardson, Adam Stotler, Sandra Stotler, Kristen Willis

Directed by Werner Herzog

Expectations: Very high. I love Werner Herzog’s documentaries.

Werner Herzog set out to document and interview the death row inmates of five murder trials for a TV miniseries, but while working on this project, one of the stories caught his fancy and he decided to expand that case into a feature-length documentary. This, obviously, is that case, and while it doesn’t immediately strike you as one worth devoting an entire film to, it slowly unfurls itself in ways you don’t expect and it becomes apparent why. At least, in so much as the reasons of a man I’ve never met can become apparent to me.

The case is a triple murder carried out by two teenagers, Michael Perry and Jason Burkett. I had typed out a fairly detailed description of the basic murder, but then I realized that in this case a basic plot synopsis would undermine the entire drive of the documentary for those looking to see it. So, these kids performed three murders in 2000, one of them was sentenced to death and Herzog filmed his interviews with this man, Michael Perry, eight days before his execution. Herzog also interviews people surrounding the murders, including the other family members left behind, prison chaplains, and ex-Death Row guards.

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

Starring Werner Herzog, Dominique Baffier, Jean Clottes, Jean-Michel Geneste, Carole Fritz, Gilles Tosello, Michel Philippe, Julien Monney, Nicholas Conard, Wulf Hein, Maria Malina, Maurice Maurin, Charles Fathy

Directed by Werner Herzog

Expectations: I expect to love this.

Werner Herzog’s latest documentary is not nearly as eccentric and philosophical as some of the other films I’ve seen of his, but it is nothing short of a resounding success. Given unprecedented access to the Chauvet Cave in southern France, Herzog and his three crew members do their best to capture every aspect of the cave, visually, sonically & spiritually. Herzog even interviews a perfumer who may attempt to recreate the ancient smell of the cave’s interior for a reproduction being built at a theme park, but since the film is not in Smell-O-Vision, viewers are left to imagine the smell described.

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Mini-Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Jennifer Coolidge, Val Kilmer, Brad Dourif, Xzibit, Fairuza Balk, Michael Shannon, Vondie Curtis Hall

Directed by Werner Herzog

Expectations: Low due to Nicolas Cage, but optimistic because of Werner Herzog.

Until now, I had not seen a Werner Herzog movie I didn’t enjoy. I unabashedly love his documentaries. His fiction films are less interesting, but so far I’ve seen enough to know that his work is usually engaging on some level and worth my time. This is not the case with Herzog’s latest, Bad Lieutenant. Nicolas Cage plays the same character he’s been playing for years, the washed up drug-addled fiend that can’t quite get his life together. Does he at least play it well? Not really, but I’ve never been a big fan. To his credit, the supporting cast is worse than he is, with an overweight, bored Val Kilmer at the top of the trash heap. Brad Dourif plays a bookie and has the distinction of being one of the few believable actors in the film.

Cage plays a drug addict cop that is slowly slipping over the edge into oblivion. He is surrounded by the rest of the clichéd corrupt cop genre characters; the call girl, the useless partner cop, the dealer, the woman with a baby at the door of the dealer’s house who let’s on where the dealer is hiding. You get the idea. Cage is investigating the murder of a family of immigrants from Senegal, but the story goes haphazardly between the mystery and Cage getting off in some way, be it sex or drugs or both. Herzog likes to deal with madness and obsession in his films, and Cage’s character has both in spades, but he doesn’t do anything to make it engaging. I love a good obsession film, but this was just boring. Cage really should hang it up at this point, or at least take a few years off. It would be unfair though to lay all the blame on the actors as Herzog seems to be as uninterested in the story as I was. I was hoping that the film might rise above the swampy filth it had been sulking in, but alas, the pull was too great. On a positive note, the film’s score by Mark Isham is pretty good in spots.

So yeah, I hated it. I do have an odd desire to re-watch it, though.

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