#NativeNerd reviews: 'The Invisible Man,' 'Call of the Wild' and 'Ford v Ferrari'

Vincent Schilling

'The Invisible Man' was a frightening and fun thriller, 'Call of the Wild' had some saving graces but a bad CGI dog, 'Ford v Ferrari' was fast and fun, but not my thing overall

This week’s Native Nerd film reviews include a revamped H.G. Wells classic, “The Invisible Man,” a revamped Jack London novel, “Call of the Wild,” a look back at an American history story, “Ford v Ferrari,” which is one of Barack Obama’s favorite recent films.

It was a fun week of film watching, and I joined a full house at the press preview for “The Invisible Man.” I wasn’t the only one looking forward to the movie. I expected to hate “Call of the Wild” due to horrible CGI, but I didn’t. “Ford v Ferrari” came up on my streams list, so I watched it.

Here are my reviews.

My #NativeNerd scoring system

I employ the decimal system to a tenth of a point. So instead of 7 stars, I might give a 7.4 out of ten. Some movies aren’t an eight but deserve a little more than a seven.

The Invisible Man

9.0 out of 10

My quick quote: “Elisabeth Moss delivers a gritty, yet commanding performance worthy of big notice. Though the film is The Invisible Man, Moss makes this movie what it is, an excellent anxiety-ridden thrill ride.”

The Invisible Man poster

Synopsis: When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.

“The Invisible Man” was a great movie. I'd call it a Lifetime Movie on steroids. An unsuspected thrill ride that delivered much more than the trailer dictated. It had me guessing until the end in a movie deliciously filled with excellent non-formulaic jumpscares. If I wasn't in a Dolby recliner, I'd have been sitting at the edge of my seat the entire time. As a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic, I give it a big certified fresh approval rating.

I also loved the easter egg tribute to the H.G. Wells classic with the bandage-covered patient in an Emergency Room scene.

But though this movie is titled “The Invisible Man” it is truly all about Cecilia Kass (portrayed brilliantly by Elisabeth Moss), who is an abused woman who makes the terrifying decision to leave the abuser in her life.

If Moss had not done her job, this movie would have fallen flat. But Moss does a beautiful portrayal of a woman who struggles to be heard, be seen, be believed. Though she is fighting an unseen foe, she is the one that is invisible.

This movie is a thriller more than a horror film by far, it is filled with unsuspecting jumpscares and never let’s the tension lapse. I felt like I had run an exhilarating race the entire film. I had a blast.

There were a few minor set-up moments that were minorly far-fetched, but they in no way disrupted the anxious fun in this film. I highly recommend it.

Hits theaters Friday.

Call of the Wild

5.0 out of 10

My quick quote: “Three performances stand out, Cara Gee, Omar Sy and Harrison Ford. But my heart aches to think how much better it could have been without CGI and a real dog Buck.”

Call of the Wild poster

Synopsis: Buck is a big-hearted dog whose blissful domestic life gets turned upside down when he is suddenly uprooted from his California home and transplanted to the exotic wilds of the Alaskan Yukon in the 1890s. As the newest rookie on a mail-delivery dog sled team, Buck experiences the adventure of a lifetime as he ultimately finds his true place in the world.

I thought I was going to hate this movie. When I saw the first film previews of “Call of the Wild” months ago, I turned in my seat uneasily with the horrendous-looking CGI and a way-too-fake looking dog named Buck.

So I researched the film, as it turns out, Buck — the canine star of the Jack London novel from 1903, in which a pampered dog unwittingly gets transported to the Alaskan Yukon during the Gold Rush, and heeds a canine “Call of the Wild” — was actually played by a Cirque du Soleil performer, who moves identically to a dog, and Buck was later added with CGI. The definition of CGI is “computer-generated imagery (special visual effects created using computer software).”

So I ask the question, how much did all this cost? Countless hours of CGI, the actor who played Buck? It must have been in the millions. The film itself cost $125 million.

So I asked myself over and over, if you are willing to fork out several million to CGI, why not instead hire the best dog trainers in the entire world?

I kept watching the movie, cognizant of the fact the directors thought animals would not be able to portray the human emotions they wanted them to portray. But in using digital animals, to do such things as emote jealousy, frustrating or disdain for their human companion taking a gulp of whiskey, we missed out on real dog reactions. It was terribly frustrating.

I really wished there had been a real dog in this movie. Their abilities to have made this movie ten times more effective, were sorely underestimated.

The saving grace of this movie was Cara Gee, Ojibwe, as Francoise, a Native Inuit from the Yukon, a character that takes the place of one of the French dog mushers in the original novel. Omar Sy and Harrison Ford were also enjoyable, as was the beautiful cinematography.

There were a lot of fun moments, but overall it was like taking a beautiful walk through scenery that is more breathtaking than can be imagined, and also jumping onto an adventure with Cara Gee and Omar Sy, on a fast and fun dog-mushing ride through the wilderness and frozen tundra of the Alaskan Yukon. However, the entire time during your walk, and during your ride, a tremendously painful rock is in your shoe. The bad CGI dog Buck is that painful consistent reminder, making me consistently long for the face of a real dog.

Though it is a family movie, little ones might get scared of an ominous wolf, the killing of a rabbit and some violence. Proceed with caution. If you don’t mind CGI, you will like the movie. But I just couldn’t get past it.

If it hadn’t been for Cara Gee, Omar Sy and Harrison Ford, I’d have a lot less tolerance for this movie.

Now in theaters.

Ford v Ferrari

7.0 out of 10

My quick quote: “A good movie, with enjoyable performances by Christian Bale, Matt Damon, and Jon Bernthal. All said, I felt bad for the Ferrari guy.”

Ford v Ferrari poster

Synopsis: American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles batte corporate interference and the laws of physics to build a revolutionary race car for Ford in order to defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Ford v Ferrari was a fun movie, and to me Christian Bale was the shining star of the film. The film had several Academy Award nominations and in my view was worthy.

All things considered, this wasn't really my style of movie. It's not as though I didn't like the movie, but it's not really the genre I go for.

So with that in mind, I gave it a 7.0 out of 10. That is not because it wasn't worthy of something higher by another potential critic, but I'll be completely honest in stating that my bias is showing. Take this into account when looking at my score — If you haven't yet seen this movie  and are deciding whether to see it or not.

This movie was the encapsulation of the corporate fight between two strong entities. Essentially Ford, who is a much bigger entity than Ferrari, decides they want to win a race to be considered a reputable brand of car. They go against the beautiful and sleek Ferrari.

Thanks to the American car designer and former racer Carroll Shelby and designer and driver Ken Miles they emerge victoriously. Or do they?

For all its pomp and circumstance, I am not a “corporate entity rising to the top” type of movie watcher. But I watched it and reviewed it and I'll admit it was mostly out of a subtle curiosity.

I'm glad I watched it, but I'm not going to rush to see it again. Like I said, ‘it's not really my thing.’ Don't hold my bias against the movie.

“Ford v Ferrari” is now available on streaming platforms.

Native Nerd Phone

Follow the #NativeNerd, Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today and a proud movie reviewer.

Have a film, product or another review request? Email me at vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com or reach out to me on social media, Twitter at @VinceSchilling and Instagram at @VinceSchilling.

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Christian Pierce
Christian Pierce

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