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  • Kill or Be Killed (2016) #6

    Kill or Be Killed (2016) #6

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    I’m trying to imagine my take on this issue if I’d kept reading Kill or Be Killed the first time I tried. Would I have been validated, disappointed, disinterested, indifferent, enthused? Probably not enthused.

    Writer Ed Brubaker changes things up this issue entirely, complete with a rationalizing explanation in the back matter, but basically, he’s given up. Kill or Be Killed is no longer an askew generic seventies Marvel white male hero turned vigilante take. It’s no longer Ed Brubaker’s Complete Lowlife Meets Criminal: Crime and Punishment 2017.

    It’s now just a cop story.

    And not even an original cop story. It’s a cop story with a female detective who got her promotion for optics, and her uniformly male colleagues treat her like shit and demean her for fun. Makes me wonder if Brubaker watched the U.S. remake of Prime Suspect too.

    It’s fine. It’s a fine, very traditional narrative. Her boss shuts her down once she realizes a connection between these seemingly random murderers, so she goes to a newspaper. Brubaker didn’t even update it enough for her to go to a news blog.

    Now, the inclusion of the female cop isn’t exciting. Sure, it’s Brubaker course adjusting the series, but it’s standard stuff. He’s introducing a joint protagonist, after all. Lots of setup and exposition, all narrated by Dylan. Brubaker forgets Dylan’s been being an obnoxious “Well, actually” snob in his narration for the previous five issues and makes him bashful about using artistic license providing the cop’s backstory.

    This tone change comes after Brubaker entirely cops out (no pun) of the cliffhanger resolve, where Dylan’s gunfight with the cops turns into a contrived escape. One artist Sean Phillips didn’t even bother visualizing like the narration describes. Dylan clearly says the cops dive away from his shotgun warning shot. They barely back up. I’ll get to the art. Phillips is done with the action with a capital D.

    But then there’s also Dylan’s chance meeting after his escape, which the narration promises will be important later if the reader doesn’t forget like Dylan forgets. For all its faults, outside trying to appeal to white men who buy comics, Kill or Be Killed was never desperate before. Now it’s desperate. Brubaker’s trying to make it accessible.

    Dylan hooks up with the ex-girlfriend during his exposition dump about the cop. We get a montage, which is probably Phillips’s best art in the issue, and it’s just a couple Netflixing and chilling with some bong rips too.

    The cliffhanger threatens the Russian mob—so now Dylan’s got the cop and a realistic Bond villain after him. Again, desperate to be accessible. But, you know what, it might have worked. It might still work going forward. It just doesn’t work here because, wow, Phillips is checked out.

    Not just with the dive, not just with the weird bodies looking like he reluctantly stuck them onto his still lovely New York City urban landscapes, but the lady cop. He draws her a different way every three panels. The first time she shows up, she looks like Kira, the best friend who Dylan was sleeping with (which would’ve made the comic so much better), but then no consistency whatsoever.

    It’s a very strange fail for Phillips—especially this issue—besides her boss is photo-referenced to the point they should credit the actor. Maybe lady cop’s shitty boss problems would be more engaging if the art weren’t tediously static.

    I don’t just not know what to expect from Kill or Be Killed going forward, but I don’t think Brubaker or Phillips know either. So it’s suddenly a more interesting mess, especially since it’s not even halfway finished.


  • Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1977) #238

    Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (1977) #238

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    This issue reprints a couple Adventure Comics from 1967, written by a sixteen-year-old Jim Shooter, proving he was better at writing comics in his teens than in his thirties. Though I’m sure there’s an abundance of evidence on that one.

    Shooter also does the layouts, with Curt Swan penciling and George Klein inking. The art looks pretty much like every other competently produced Silver Age comic. The story’s about the new president of Earth declaring the Legion of Super-Heroes a youth gang and banning them; the Legion only finds out about it when they get back to Earth from missions in space, saving countless lives.

    Some Legionnaires get arrested quickly; others go on the run and become fugitives as they try to discover what’s gone wrong with their world in just a few days.

    The plot’s amusingly similar to a recent one where time travel changed the future, and no one believed Superboy when he told them they were all acting differently. Maybe they should’ve remembered they’d had this similar adventure.

    Though Superboy’s barely in this issue, and Supergirl makes far more of an impact. The sixties Legion didn’t have the scantily clad superhero wear (for boys or girls), but they also didn’t even pretend to count the female Legionnaires as regular members. It’s a boys club and feels very much like a teenage boy wrote it.

    Because one did.

    It’s a little belabored (this one double-sized issue collects two old issues), and the reveals aren’t surprising–except when Shooter apparently creates the “meddling kids” reveal from “Scooby-Doo” two years before the first cartoon aired—but it’s not terrible. On the contrary, it’s precisely what you’d expect from a Silver Age comic book.

    Swan and Klein don’t do a lot with the future setting, but it looks enough like Flash Gordon (the 1930s serials but with the limitless comic budget) to amuse.

    It’s also interesting to see how Shooter worked out solutions based on powers but without the thoughtfulness of current series writer Paul Levitz.

    Not quite interesting enough to make me glad I read the issue instead of skipping ahead, but I also don’t regret it.


  • Luba (1998) #8

    Luba (1998) #8

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    I'm getting worried I was supposed to be reading Luba's Comics and Stories simultaneously to Luba. The last two issues have had ads for the other comic, which makes me wonder what creator Beto Hernandez's version of the Superman shield with the reading number would be… probably something amazingly obscene.

    Hopefully.

    This issue's almost entirely about Doralis's show going off the air, only it's not about Doralis. She figures in a couple times, both times with huge revelations, but she's never the protagonist of the stories, rather a dramatic punchline. The first time it's in Boots's recollection of the final straws on the show, as Doralis and Pipo lash out at one another. Boots protects Doralis and her secret, which Beto then shares with the reader. It's a surprise, though also not entirely unexpected. So keeping Doralis at a distance makes sense.

    That story's the second in the issue. Before it, there's Luba going to a leather and latex club with Pipo and Fritz. This issue establishes—across most of the stories—Pipo and Fritz secretly dating and repercussions on the cast, which is one of the reasons I'm worried I should've been reading Comics and Stories. The last time Beto covered Pipo's romantic pursuit (and forward advances) of Fritz in Luba, Fritz wasn't interested.

    Now they're basically together. Of course, Fritz's still got her boyfriends, including Sergio. All those boyfriends take a back seat, though–Fortunato's around and seduces a bunch of the ladies this issue. He'll figure into almost all of the strips, including a cameo in Sergio's later.

    This issue might be where Doralis loses her show, but it's the Fortunato issue.

    So, the first story is Luba at the club, Sergio trying to convince her to tell his mom, Pipo, to stop being immature and slutty, especially around his girlfriend, Fritz. Only then Fortunato shows up, and all the ladies flock to him.

    Second story is Boots's recounting of the last days of Doralis's show. Guadalupe and Sergio's drama figures in late in the story, with Sergio again declaring his love and Gato showing up to throw a wrench in their moment. Or at least their possibility of a moment. It's most interesting because the story—running for pages—starts with Guadalupe being an observer, then protagonist enough to fill the pages with thought balloons, only to turn out to be Boots's story entirely. It's deft work from Beto.

    The epilogue is Gato hanging out with the rest of the people who helped ruin the show—a gossip publisher and the girl who worked on the show but conspired against it. It's an excellent one-pager for Gato; we've been hearing about this plot since New Love and Beto spent most of Luba resolving it in the background, but he's never shown this side of the story. It's brief and perfect.

    Then it's back to Fortunato. We get another chapter in his origin—he'd already told Pipo he was fished from the sea, but in flashback, and then Doralis's story about Atlantians with legs hinted at his fantastical lineage. This time Boots is telling the story (as Pipo's told her). It's got a couple great punchlines. Boots is Beto's finest device in Luba; she's a close but distant narrator, always ready with a great joke or a surprise.

    Fortunato, Pipo, and Fritz also figure into the following story. It's a Sergio story; at six pages, it's the longest in the issue (though the first three or four stories do sort of run together). He's mad at mom Pipo for mooning over Fortunato and making a fool of herself with Fritz, so he rushes off to the airport and his next match. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of football hooligans and rich men's wandering wives while having a minor breakdown about his home situation. Everyone thinks it will ruin his football, but he's determined not to let it.

    It's a good story for Sergio. It's been a while since he's had one, and he's usually only sympathetic when someone's very maliciously wronging him, which I suppose also happens here, but still. Beto employs different pacing; most of this issue has been conversations (and Fortunato), so the mood change here is nice.

    The next strip is a one-pager with Guadalupe thinking about her life. Doralis and the show figure in, but it's otherwise a dozen-plus panels of Guadalupe thinking. It's good… but if there's a reason for Guadalupe to think people think so poorly of her… I don't remember it. It'd be from Love and Rockets, but no, don't remember her being terrible, which makes her very sympathetic though it's kind of not her story even though she thinks her way through it.

    The last story is another Luba story; four pages. It's the finale of the Doralis cancellation fallout, but the middle's more about Fritz. Then the finish is Luba and Ofelia getting into a nasty fight for the first time in ages. As the last story, it's both a non sequitur and not.

    Overall, Beto's more ambitious in the second half of the issue than in the first. The first's very complicated and intricate, so it's forgivable. But then the best thing—in this comic where everyone's been talking about Fritz, but it's been ages (issues) since she's gotten to be a protagonist—is the back cover color strip. It's just different images of Fritz in the different areas of her life, with the different people. It's fantastic, and probably the most successful Beto's ever been tying the seemingly unrelated back cover strips to the main content.


  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979, Robert Wise), the restored director’s edition

    Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979, Robert Wise), the restored director’s edition

    Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Restored Director’s Edition occasionally feels like a fan project. Or at least a temp project. Like the new opening titles, set in gold. They look like they were done using an iPhone app. Then there are shots where they couldn’t find the original materials, so the picture suddenly looks terrible, like a hacky up-convert to 4K. There are plenty of spectacular restored shots, but when they’re bad, they’re really bad. And they’re usually during effects sequences.

    The reason for restoring the director’s edition is because it was made for DVD, and they didn’t do the new special effects in high definition. It took the restoration team a while to convince the studio. The end credits break out the first and second teams, and some of the names are the same; they came back twenty years later to do the same work again, just with eight million more pixels.

    The result’s… okay?

    In addition to the bad titles and the damaged original footage or whatever, there are a few times the changed special effects don’t work in high definition. Only once is it distracting, when William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley all lose the edges of their bodies in front of a starfield because portrait mode choked on their pajama costumes.

    Some of the CGI is good, some of it is middling, and a couple shots are lousy. It’s sometimes annoying but usually forgivable; they’re well-intentioned.

    Content-wise, the narrative is unchanged from the last director’s edition (as far as I remember it). A space cloud of enormous power invades the galaxy, headed straight toward Earth, and the only starship in intercept range is the Enterprise. Except they’re undergoing a massive retrofit to make the ship movie-ready in 1979, not impressive for TV in 1966; plus, they’ve got a new captain, Stephen Collins, leading the same old crew.

    But not Shatner, who’s a desk jockeying admiral now, or Kelley, who’s retired to take up some weird future New Age thing if his gold medallion is any indication, or Nimoy, who’s retired to his home planet Vulcan to give up all emotion and… get a more blinged-out gold medallion as a reward. They really missed the chance for Kelley and Nimoy to compare bling.

    When Star Trek: The Motion Picture isn’t meandering through its sci-fi thriller plot, it’s vaguely about Shatner desperately wanting to relive his glory days and using catastrophe to do it, dragging Kelley along because Shatner can’t do it without him. There’s actually maybe the argument Admiral Kirk’s going through some depression and saving the known universe is just the way to get out of that funk. So long as he gets some help from his friends.

    Shatner and Kelley act that arc, which is occasionally in the script. Nimoy shows up later and sort of figures in, but not really. Shatner’s arc stops when he and Kelley get to worry about Nimoy instead. But more significant than either of those arcs is Collins’s G-rated romance with Persis Khambatta. They used to know each other when he was stationed on her free love planet. They’ve got a bunch of unresolved feelings—not to mention Shatner assuming command of Collins’s ship and everyone on the crew being thrilled—and it gets more runtime than any of the other arcs. Also, it figures into the A-plot of the alien spaceship out to destroy Earth.

    There is lots of good acting from Shatner, but Kelley’s an absolute deadpan riot throughout. Nimoy’s okay once he gets over his “logical means rude” bit. Collins is bland but affable. Wise directs the heck out of Shatner and Khambatta in entirely different ways but to similarly strong effect. Even as the finale plods—before racing too quick to the finish—Khambatta’s mesmerizing.

    Sturdy support from the rest of the crew—Walter Koenig gets the most fun, George Takei and Nichelle Nichols get lots of background busywork, James Doohan’s around in the first act, then relegated to occasional “dannae ken if she can take any more” scenes. Unfortunately, Motion Picture’s got a clunky story, something the director’s editions improve but can’t fix.

    Still, the special effects are glorious, the Jerry Goldsmith’s music’s peerless, and the movie’s generally great looking. Except for the pajama costumes, of course. Wise and the very large cast do wonders even with those silly, silly costumes. There are lots of people around at all times; even if they don’t get lines, they do have to react to the dire circumstances, all while in onesies.

    I do wish they didn’t have that really bad footage in this version, but otherwise, all drive systems are good to go.


  • Teen Wolf Too (1987, Christopher Leitch)

    Teen Wolf Too (1987, Christopher Leitch)

    There are worse movies than Teen Wolf Too. There have to be worse movies than Teen Wolf Too. It’s a mantra you can use when watching Teen Wolf Too. Of course, given the era, there may be even a worse theatrically released movie from the same year (1987). But Teen Wolf Too is just the wrong combination of worthless and ponderous.

    The obvious worst aspect of Teen Wolf Too is lead Jason Bateman. His performance is so inept, he’s not miscast, it’s a joke he was tested. A lot makes sense once you realize Bateman’s dad, Kent, produced the movie as a vehicle for his kid who couldn’t act. What’s so unfortunate about Bateman’s acting is his apparent effort. He clearly working with some suffering acting coach because his deliveries are laborious. Lots of pausing to think and consider, which just prolongs scenes and makes the deliveries longer. The less Bateman acting, the better, but there’s so, so much of it.

    Because Teen Wolf Too can’t afford the makeup people from the first one, which leads to a lousy werewolf mask for Bateman, but then he’s barely in it. Bateman’s only got a handful of scenes wolfed out besides the numerous (four or five) montage sequences, where they can also use a stuntman.

    Including an indescribable—but seriously, not worth seeing it for yourself—song and dance number where Bateman’s obviously not singing or dancing. See, Stuart Fratkin’s back from the first movie—well, Fratkin’s character is back. The original actor, Jerry Levine, didn’t return. Since he’d have been thirty or whatever acting opposite maybe just eighteen Bateman. Fratkin’s older but not lots and lots older. Mark Holton’s back from the first movie; he’s lots and lots older. He’s some weird non-trad who went to college to physically assault teenagers.

    But Fratkin. He wanted to get Bateman to college to create a new Teen Wolf sensation, and so he’s prepared the song and dance number for Bateman’s Teen Wolf coming out. And hired dancers. Again, indescribably bad. Again, don’t find out for yourself. Don’t even YouTube it.

    So, the first movie was high school, and this one is college. Bateman’s playing Michael J. Fox’s cousin from the first movie, who doesn’t think he will be a werewolf because neither of his parents are werewolves. There’s not not an implication the parents are related.

    Anyway.

    James Hampton is back from the first movie as Fox’s dad and Bateman’s uncle. There’s also not not the implication Bateman’s parents are dead. It’s like the Cat People remake, actually, when you think about it. A lot like it.

    Hampton’s not any good because the script’s terrible. Much like untalented white guy lead Bateman, screenwriter Tim Kring failed upward, though maybe he learned to write someday like Bateman learned to act once his dad stopped making his movies for him.

    Sorry. Hampton.

    Hampton’s not good. But he doesn’t appear embarrassed to be in the movie, which is incredible because everyone else looks mortified. Even Bateman. Bateman looks just as miserable as everyone watching him act.

    The film’s cast is a varied assortment of established actors down on their luck, middling ones about to quit acting for something else, or lousy actors kicking off careers acting poorly.

    You feel bad for Kim Darby and Paul Sands (though Sands is terrible and Darby’s just bad), but not John Astin. Astin’s atrocious. Fratkin’s awful, Beth Miller’s awful; Holton’s bad but not especially bad. Estee Chandler plays the love interest, who Bateman mentally abuses, and the script treats like shit.

    Chandler’s sympathetic. She’s one of the few people not actively making the movie worse. She’s trapped in Teen Wolf Too.

    Leitch’s direction is terrible, Mark Goldenberg’s music’s terrible, Jules Brenner’s photography is terrible. On the other hand, the editing–the movie’s got four editors and is ninety-five minutes—isn’t incompetent.

    Don’t watch Teen Wolf Too.

    Unless Jason Bateman’s dad is paying you to watch it.


  • Batman: Year 100 (2006) #3

    Batman: Year 100 (2006) #3

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    Year 100 started with Jim Gordon (named after granddad) not knowing anything about “The Bat-Man of Gotham” and thinking it was an unlikely urban legend in the first issue to revealing he was the warden of Arkham Asylum. And it was filled with super-villains. And then he let the federal police kill them all, getting his job at Gotham PD as a reward.

    Wouldn’t you want a good reward for allowing such a thing? Not, you know, being the last good cop in a corrupt dystopia?

    Gordon does his confessing to the doctor lady, who was helping Batman 2039 with his federal morgue break-in but turned off comms to patch up Gordon. At multiple points during their scene, it seems like he’s going to say something meaningful or revelatory, but instead, he just says, “wow, Batman’s real, huh,” repeatedly. Or at least twice.

    Considering he spends the second half of the issue at granddad Commissioner Gordon’s cabin upstate looking at pictures of the old Batman, this current Gordon didn’t know there was a real Batman because he had his head up his ass. Especially since he knows all the rogue’s gallery’s names.

    So dumb.

    It raises the question—did DC editorial not care about a better script because it’s Paul Pope or because they knew no one cared about a Batman comic being good, actually. Or even sensible. Also, the comic seems to be reversing course on the continuity to Frank Miller, instead implying Batman’s a series of guys, like James Bond actors or something.

    While Gordon’s on his information quest, Batman 2039 is getting into major fights with the cops, who lock down the city after he escapes again. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly great escape sequence. There’s a fight scene with a psychic cop, but it’s boring, and every time the story’s begging for some gorgeous Pope art… Pope instead cuts to Gordon discovering something or having a pat epiphany.

    The issue’s also got a lengthy talking heads sequence where the angry doctor lady yells at Batman for being irresponsible, but Pope doesn’t want to give away any details about the characters, so the argument’s pointless. It’s noisy, it takes up pages, and there’s nothing else to it.

    Obviously, there’s some good art in the comic, though the new “Batmobile” (the Batcycle, like, come on, it’s a motorcycle, it’s not a mobile) is disappointing. Pope put a lot of thought into the design but not into what the thing might do.

    The comic feels incredibly slight—with only one issue to go—and I’m remembering why I almost immediately forgot Paul Pope ever did a big Batman project.


  • Werewolf by Night (1972) #2

    Werewolf by Night (1972) #2

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    Frank Chiaramonte inks the Ploog this issue, resulting in some really good art, but not the sublime standard Ploog’s set doing his own inks. It seems like Chiaramonte takes over a few pages into the comic; after a while, the faces lose that Ploog character. The expressiveness. Or maybe, since it’s eventually just the villain, his henchman, and the werewolf, no one cared about the expressions.

    Before that winnowing down, writer Gerry Conway works on his subplots. The Darkhold is the major B-plot, with Jack and his new best friend and roommate Buck Cowan taking it out to a former university professor priest turned labor organizer priest for translation. They also meet up with Terri, who appeared in one panel in the first appearance of Werewolf by Night and had a different hair color. She sort of joins the supporting cast. It’s hard to say because once Jack heads out with the villain, it’s full moon and transformation time, not time for love.

    The comic opens with the “third night” of Jack’s transformation cycle, seemingly making the issue an immediate sequel to the last one. Some of the other details fit—Jack having just moved in with Buck, for example—but there’s no mention of the previous issue’s memorable adventures.

    Probably because this issue’s villain has similar evil plans, though the last villains’ schemes didn’t involve the werewolf for experimental purposes, they did have a bunch of non-lycanthropic experimenting going on. I think the werewolf fought someone in Marvel Spotlight who wanted to fix themselves through experiments too. Jack just can’t stop running into magically-inclined mad scientists.

    But he also fights a shark. The comic opens with the cops, then a mysterious helicopter, chasing the werewolf through the Los Angeles docks and into the ocean. Werewolf goes in the water, shark’s in the water. And even though the werewolf doesn’t want to fight, the shark’s got different ideas.

    The chase is good. The shark is eh. There’s another potentially big set-piece at the end of the story, and Ploog rushes it as well. The accompanying narration is more interesting than the shark fight; Conway’s got a peculiar, close first-person angle on it—but it’s neither the werewolf nor Jack narrating. The werewolf doesn’t have the vocabulary, and Jack doesn’t remember all the full moon adventure details. I’m curious if that double-extended narrative distance will ever change.

    But for now, I’m just waiting to see what happens with the Darkhold and Terri, but hopefully not forty-something Buck and under-eighteen Lissa (Jack’s sister, who the issue establishes hang out at he and Buck’s pad).


  • Kill or Be Killed (2016) #5

    Kill or Be Killed (2016) #5

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    This issue is where I jumped off Kill or Be Killed the last time I tried reading it. The funny part is I’m now utterly dispassionate about the issue. Sure, I can see where Sean Phillips’s lagging art would’ve bothered me—Dylan runs into his ex-girlfriend (who I think they teased in the first or second issue) and they both have really poorly sized heads through their re-meet cute.

    And there’s some weird hostility in writer Ed Brubaker’s narration for Dylan. Lashing out at the reader. But the reader is also whoever’s listening to Dylan’s confession; this issue makes it seem very much like he’s telling someone his story, not just narrating. We’ll see on that one, though. Brubaker likes crime fiction a lot, and crime fiction doesn’t care how tenses work.

    In addition to Dylan meeting his ex-girlfriend again—outside his boxing gym, where he goes for lessons since a Russian stripper beat him up last issue (but months and months before, Brubaker’s doing the time jump)—he goes to coffee with Kira. They sit awkwardly like strangers because they’re not knocking boots since she and his roommate broke up.

    There are a couple victims in this issue—the demon, who also appears briefly (meaning Dylan hasn’t seen the demon in his dad’s old painting, which was around his apartment, in the two-plus months since the last issue), told Dylan he had to kill one person a month, I think, which means it’s pretty easy to count the passage of time. Not quite a lunar cycle, but close enough.

    Anyway, the victims are a little more creative. One’s a dog killer who got off with a temporary insanity plea, and the other’s Bernie Madoff.

    The cliffhanger promises nothing’s ever going to be the same starting next issue, so who knows, maybe it’ll at least stabilize. I sure didn’t think so last time, though. I guess I wasn’t ready to be so disappointed but now, bring it on.

    Also, while Phillips has problems with the figures and the half splash pages accompanying text aren’t great, he still does a fine job with the New York City scenery.


  • Teen Wolf (1985, Rod Daniel)

    Teen Wolf (1985, Rod Daniel)

    Teen Wolf is a rather dire Wolf. The best things about the movie are James Hampton as the dad and the werewolf makeup, which seems entirely designed to allow for a stuntman to play Michael J. Fox when he’s decked out.

    Otherwise, it’s never better than middling and often much worse. Some of the problem is the script, though clearly not all of it, unless writers Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman introduced subplots to never address later, but most of it’s director Daniel and maybe editor Lois Freeman-Fox. Teen Wolf’s got absolutely no flow. Every scene feels like it’s the first time the characters have ever met… wait, I guess that one is script-related. Loeb and Weisman don’t do character arcs.

    Ostensibly, Teen Wolf is about Fox accepting himself for himself and realizing his best friend Susan Ursitti is the right girl for him even though she’s not glamorous like Lorie Griffin. Griffin’s surprisingly not a cheerleader, instead doing a one-woman version of Gone With the Wind for theater teacher Scott Paulin. The film goes out of its way to suggest Paulin’s abusing her, but it’s always a joke because girls are property in Wolf. Paulin’s terrible. There’s not much good acting in Teen Wolf and some really bland bad acting, but Paulin somehow manages to be bad, bland, and eccentric. He’s atrocious.

    Of course, Daniel doesn’t direct the actors. At all. Fox is all over the place, whereas Ursitti and Griffin are nowhere. Hampton handles it because he’s a professional, then other supporting actors just sort of luck into not needing much direction because the script’s so thin, or the film’s cut their characters down to nothing. Mark Arnold’s the bad guy; he’s Griffin’s boyfriend who goes to another high school. He’s on the basketball team, and they regularly trounce Fox and his team.

    So, Teen Wolf is a bad high school sports movie with a werewolf subplot. When Fox turns into a werewolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright… well, wait, no. Fox can turn into a werewolf whenever he wants. The movie treats lycanthropy as peculiar but not unheard-of; it’s one of the script’s most successful moves because it allows Arnold to be a credible threat. He hates Fox for being different. The werewolf “curse” is an othering thing, not a bloodlust thing.

    Griffin thinks it’s hot, Ursitti thinks it’s not, but Fox wants to be popular, so he’s going with blonde Griffin. But, again, Griffin’s not some popular girl; she’s the one being groomed and abused by the theater teacher. She hates her boyfriend and, seemingly, her life. Small wonder with both Arnold and Paulin treating her like their personal property and then Fox trying to do the same.

    Though Fox is also miserable. He’s miserable before he’s the werewolf, miserable after. It doesn’t go anywhere.

    Jerry Levine plays Fox’s obnoxious best bro. Levine needs some direction. He’s supposed to be an amusing wiseass. He’s a desperately unfunny one instead. Despite being filmed in Pasadena (in for Nebraska), Teen Wolf feels like a Canadian movie from the era that statement was a pejorative, and Levine seems like the one American who went north trying to make it. And then not.

    Also, Daniel didn’t have Fox get rid of his Canadian “sorries.”

    Besides Hampton and Arnold, the other decent performance is Matt Adler as Fox’s friend who doesn’t like the werewolf business. It’s not a subplot in the film (probably in the script, maybe even filmed), but Daniel and Freeman-Fox only leave it in the background of the finished product, with Adler not even getting to voice his discomfort. Other people talk about him when he’s not around.

    But he’s got an arc.

    Also, Fox’s teammates Mark Holton and Doug Savant get an arc. They watch him become an attention-seeking ball hog and don’t like playing anymore. Savant gets Teen Wolf’s biggest diss when he’s shut out of the third act.

    Jay Tarses plays Fox’s basketball coach. He’s terrible but funny, like Daniel couldn’t screw up Tarses’s deliveries even when working against them. James MacKrell plays the mean vice principal. He’s bad and not funny.

    Teen Wolf is a smelly dog. It doesn’t even help it’s only ninety-two minutes. Daniel and Freeman-Fox constantly use slow motion to drag things out.

    Oh, and the original soundtrack… woof.