Critical Consensus: "Wild Hogs" Is Cinematic Roadkill; Good Signs for "Zodiac"; "Black Snake Moan" Sings

by | March 1, 2007 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got middle-aged bikers ("Wild Hogs," starring John Travolta) astrologically-minded killers ("Zodiac," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr.), and some southern-fried pulp ("Black Snake Moan," starring Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci). What do the critics have to say?

Lately, Hollywood has presented more motorcycles in the movies than Laconia Bike Week. First we had "Ghost Rider," and now comes the midlife-crisis-on-wheels pic "Wild Hogs." John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy star as a group of older guys who want to take a break from their humdrum lives, get their motors running, and head out on the highway. But their dream becomes a nightmare when they run into a biker gang and find themselves in over their heads. Critics say "Wild Hogs" squanders an A-list cast (which also includes Marisa Tomei and Ray Liotta) on an uninspired, clichéd script that unsuccessfully mixes slapstick with pathos. At 19 percent on the Tomatometer, this ain’t "Hog" heaven.

"I’m not telling you where I got my Commodore tattoo."

David Fincher brought the police procedural/serial killer movie into the modern era with "Seven." In his latest, "Zodiac," Fincher returns to the dark world of methodical killers, and critics say the result is less visceral, but still dark and absorbing. "Zodiac" follows the search for a serial killer who terrorized the Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s (and inspired "Dirty Harry" in the process). Jake Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, a political cartoonist who seeks to decode the Zodiac Killer’s cryptic missives to the police and local newspapers. Critics say some may be disappointed by "Zodiac"’s length and open-endedness (the killer was never found), but the film’s moody ambience and palpable dread are intoxicating and will reward patient viewers. At 84 percent on the Tomatometer, "Zodiac" is not only Certified Fresh, it’s also tied with "Seven" as Fincher’s best reviewed film to date.

Apprehensive about the Zodiac killer, or waiting for the bathroom to free up?

With "Hustle & Flow," director Craig Brewer delved into the mythology of rap. Now, with "Black Snake Moan," he wades knee-deep into the blues — and critics say he’s in somewhat muddier waters. "Moan" stars Samuel L. Jackson as a farmer and sometime bluesman who discovers a woman named Rae (Christina Ricci) beaten by the side of the road; he takes Rae into his home and chains her to his radiator, hoping to cure her of her insatiable promiscuity. The premise is admittedly lurid, and some pundits say the film is too awash in provocation to work as a drama. But others say Brewer’s film has a sure sense of place, excellent music, committed performances and a sweetness and humor that make this a pulp delight. "Black Snake Moan" currently stands at 60 percent on the Tomatometer. (Check out RT’s interview with Brewer here.)

It’s hard out here for a nymph.

Also opening this week in limited release: "Wild Tigers I Have Known," a touching coming-out tale, is at 82 percent; the doc "Into Great Silence," a deliberate examination of an order of Monks in the French Alps, is at 79 percent; and "Full of It," a comedy about a compulsive liar-turned-soothsayer starring Ryan Pinkston, is at 20 percent.

"We’re not your real parents and we hate you. Punk’d!"

And finally, we’d like to say hello, hello to a user called Count_Vertigo, who came the closest to guessing "The Abandoned"’s Tomatometer of 26 percent.

Recent David Fincher Movies:
77% — Panic Room (2002)
81% — Fight Club (1999)
76% — The Game (1997)
84% — Seven (1995)
33% — Alien 3 (1992)

Recent Samuel L. Jackson Movies:
22% — Home of the Brave (2006)
68% — Snakes on a Plane (2006)
24% — Freedomland (2005)
13% — The Man (2005)
81% — Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

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