Tag Archives: James Spader

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

I have a kind of casual self-imposed policy of watching movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe only once. Sometimes this works out beautifully, as in the case of, say, Thor: The Dark World, which I’m not sure I could sit through again without fast-forwarding to the parts with Tom Hiddleston. Other times I have a temptation to go back and watch a previous entry, usually on the eve of a new entry like Avengers: Age of Ultron. This policy is in effect partly because a good chunk of the MCU films are like The Dark World — sloppy, boring, noncommittal — and a second viewing only highlights these qualities. What do I do, then, if I need me my Thor fix now? I go read a Thor comic.

The real experiment afoot here is one that will fail, but one I hope for anyway: if the longevity of the MCU is the thing the MCU-makers are actually striving for, rather than that rusty and outdated model of making one good movie after another, then can I find a way to emphasize that? Can I enjoy the good and forget the bad and then return to the whole thing as one whole thing, years later, and really feel that longevity in the good and the bad?

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Wolf (1994)

He’s a wolf – and not just in the bedroom! Jack Nicholson’s turn as publisher Will Randall in the Mike Nichols werewolf flick Wolf is, well, a Jack Nicholson performance. He’s sleazy, hairy, and manic as ever here, and so your enjoyment of Wolf might depend entirely upon your enjoyment of Jack Nicholson. There are other things floating around in the movie to distract you, but Jack’s at the heart and soul of everything for better or worse.

Nicholson’s Will encounters a black wolf one night and suffers a bite to his hand. He soon encounters the slinky Laura Alden, played slinkily by Michelle Pfeiffer, and the two begin a romantic relationship. Meanwhile, as Will’s animalistic tendencies simmer to a boil within him, James Spader’s office yuppie Stewart Swinton schemes viciously for Will’s job at the publishing firm. These three characters swirl around each other as the full moon rises, and eventually Joker and Catwoman and Ultron all meet for a fateful reunion.

So is Wolf actually good, or is it B-movie horror trash? Interestingly, really strong arguments can be made for both cases. The first hour of Wolf is pretty razor-sharp: Nichols delights in the blacks and yellows of a bedroom lit by the harvest moon, and the cinematography is damn-near beautiful; writer Jim Harrison (who penned Legends of the Fall) focuses as much on the back-and-forth of workplace politicking as on the back-and-forth between man and wolf, and the parallels he draws are amazing; to boot, a sparkling Ennio Morricone score doesn’t hurt. These guys make Wolf extremely palatable, and Nicholson knocks what they give him out of the park. The metaphorical rise of the wolf is handled with a subtle sophistication by the leading man, apparent only when you consider how hammy and over-the-top the entire thing could have been.

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