An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London is currently available on instant Netflix.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

“After surviving a vicious werewolf attack that left his friend dead, an American backpacker in London becomes a murderous werewolf himself. Prowling the streets of London, he learns that his living-dead victims will wander in limbo until he’s dead.”

“Have you tried talking to a corpse? It’s boring. “

Hot off the twin successes of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, writer/director John Landis was finally able to get his werewolf project approved. Studio executives naturally wanted Landis to again cast John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd but Landis instead cast relative unknowns David Naughton and Griffin Dunne.

The cast is fantastic. David Naughton, at the time famous for being the face of Dr. Pepper, does a wonderful job handling the humor and pathos as our victim/werewolf David Kessler. Jenny Agutter is marvelously sexy as David’s nurse Alex Price. Griffin Dunne still manages to steal the show from both of them as David’s best friend Jack.

The score by Elmer Bernstein is effective but almost non-existent. This is due in part to Landis’ decision to use Bad Moon Rising and multiple versions of Blue Moon in the soundtrack. The licensed songs fit the quirky nature of the movie quite well.

Makeup special effects, not just limited to a werewolf, finally got their due with An American Werewolf in London. Rick Baker won the first ever Best Makeup Oscar in 1982 for his work on this film. He would go on to win again for Harry and the Hendersons (1987), Ed Wood (1994), The Nutty Professor (1996), Men in Black (1997), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and The Wolfman (2010). He was nominated five other times as well.

The storyline is all over the map and the entire plot can easily be summed up in two sentences, albeit with spoilers. In spite of this, Landis’ script is able to mine the subject for a fantastic amount of humor without the film being a comedy, a true friendship, a sexual tryst that feels real, fantastic special effects, some scares, and a marvelous dream sequence.

Michael Jackson was so enamored of this film that he hired Landis to direct his Thriller video, Elmer Bernstein to do the incidental music, and Rick Baker to do the makeup effects. The Thriller video is also amazing and features a voiceover by Vincent Price.

People Watch:  John Landis does a cameo as the man being smashed into a window. He also did some of the stunts for the movie. Frank (Yoda) Oz has a small part as Mr. Collins and, as a result, Miss Piggy and Kermit also appear in the movie (as themselves).

Remake-itis: In 1997, director Anthony Waller and three writers tried to repeat Landis’ directing and writing success and made An American Werewolf in Paris. It was not a successful effort.

Aliens Attack! Men in Black III Edition

Men in Black 3 (2012) – Rated PG-13

“Agent J travels in time to MIB’s early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history. “

“Do you know what is the most destructive power in the universe?” – “Sugar?”

A decade and a half after the very funny Men in Black and a full decade after the ‘meh’ Men in Black II, we return to very funny with Men in Black III.

The “Back in Time” tagline of Men in Black III is absolutely wonderful. It is appropriate of course because the subject matter deals with time travel. Not only that but we’re talking about the second sequel to a film made fifteen years ago. The most appropriate use of the tagline though is that Men in Black III is a complete throwback to the way the first film was made.

Honestly I just wanted to do a review that said, “If you liked Men in Black then you will like Men in Black III” but then felt that I shouldn’t give it such short shrift. Men in Black III is good but not outstanding, funny but not uproarious.

Will Smith is more firmly in control and thus receives even more of the screentime. He is looking just a little older – not quite the man who ran down an alien. He is his always likeable, wisecracking self. Tommy Lee Jones returns as the ever scowling Agent K. He does a fine job here as always.

The real star though is actually Josh Brolin. He is so good as the younger Agent K that you forget that it is Josh Brolin. It really seems as if it is a younger Tommy Lee Jones. He steals every scene away from Will Smith and that is quite a feat.

Sadly Rip Torn is not in this one as Zed. He has instead been replaced by the wonderful Emma Thompson as Agent O. She doesn’t have much screentime but is always a delight. Alice Eve plays the young Agent O.

Jemaine Clement plays our resident baddie, Boris. If you aren’t familiar with Jemaine, you will swear that it is Tim Curry from both the voice and mannerisms. The cast is rounded out by Michael Stuhlbarg as the alien Griffin but it really is just Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the present and Will Smith and Josh Brolin in the past.

There are plenty of good jokes (and the usual number that fall flat). Neither time period is fully fleshed out but neither does either overstay its welcome. There is an excellent “twist” towards the end which is wonderfully handled.

Once again Rick Baker has filled the screen to bursting with as many different aliens in the background as possible. He won Men in Black’s only Oscar, Best Makeup in 1998.

Sucker Note: Attention theaters – all you have to do to get my money is serve your drinks in sturdy plastic ‘souvenir’ cups. I paid a dollar extra (each) to upgrade to this ridiculously mammoth cup just because I could use it later as a popcorn server in my movie room. The two lovely Men in Black 3 cups will join my two Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides from last year.

People Watch: Look for a delightful cameo by Will Arnett as Agent AA.