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Volume 1, Number 1

This Week's Reviews:  Cruel Intentions, The 24 Hour Woman.



Cruel Intentions

(Dir: Roger Kumble, Starring Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blaire,Christine Baranski, and Swoozie Kurtz)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

In a modern day retelling of the French play Les Liaisons Dangereuses aka Dangerous Liasons, Screenwriter/Director Roger Kumble reminds me of why classic pieces of writing are poorly modernized (see William Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneyth Paltrow). I Know What You Did Last Summer and 54 star Phillippe plays his normal hormone-crazed character. The only difference is that in this film he is a supposed genius despite the fact that he lacks the thinking skills to successfully enunciate sentences. He is playing the part of Sebastian Valmont, the John Malkovich role in DL. Sebastian is a wealthy Manhattan socialite that spends his spare time grabbing girls to suit his sexual needs for the moment. Enter his wicked step-sister, a vamp straight from the Glenn Close portrayal in DL. Sarah Michelle Gellar whose previous works have included the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Simply Irresistible turns out well cast for the role, especially masked behind dyed black hair. Her Kathryn is both appealing and unappealing at the same time. She also gets kudos along with Selma Blaire for well pulling of a lesbian kiss scene without turning it into the normal Hollywood formula treatment.

The story follows Sebastian's bet with Kathryn that he cannot get Annette, a young girl from Kansas that wrote a report for Seventeen Magazine about waiting for marriage. Played by the voluptuous Reese Witherspoon, Annette has a certain allure to her that makes her "manifesto" a little hard to swallow. Anyway, as formula goes, Sebastian actually falls in love with Annette despite the attempts by Kathryn to stop this from happening.

The film does put forth a better attempt than the down-right awful Romeo+Juliet, but all in all it lacks the potential to be sexy that it's previews so tauted it to be. As master film critic Lisa Shwartzbaum put "Showing less skin than an average Lever 2000 soap commercial and making less orgasmic noise than promos for Clairol shampoos, these teenthrobs are merely playing at being studs and vamps." And unfortunately that is the truth. Like the so-called "steamy-hot" Female Perversions and Wild Things, Cruel Intentions is the antithesis to what we might make if we wanted to be sexy filmmakers but did not want a R rating. In fact the films rating is completely based on it's language. It had potential, especially after the kiss between Blair and Gellar but never makes up for what it acts like it was setting out to do.

On an ending note, the cast does give a good try at it (except for the never quite on the mark Phillippe) and Kumble makes some good directorial attempts but the screenplay bogs down a film that most would say needed no screenplay at all.


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The 24 Hour Woman

(Dir: Nancy Savoca, Starring Rosie Perez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Patti LaPone, and Karen Duffy)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

In the genre of female-oriented comedies, The 24 Hour Woman is one of the better I have seen, but that does not really mean that much, though it is quite a step-up from Stepmom. Grace Santos (Perez) has just gotten the news that she is pregnant when we meet her in the opening of the film. As formula would have it, she now has to cope with the fact that in a few months she will have to balance both her child and her job as a morning TV show producer with little help from her husband, the co-host of the show she produces. In one of the films few original steps, the show turns her pregnancy into a ratings booster by following it on a daily basis. About forty-five minutes into the film she has the baby and all seems well but as expected, she must raise it with little support from her husband who has recently found his calling doing small time film roles.

Riddled with predictability, the film falters in the first half and really never makes up for it. There are a few good scenes like those involving her new secretary Madeine (Jean-Baptiste in her first film since Secrets & Lies) and her husband played by Wendell Pierce but just not enough of them. The choice of Rosie Perez was good choice since she pulls off most of her scenes with finesse despite the poor dialogue given to her. All in all, it is a mediocre script hidden amongst a few good scenes.


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Reviews by:
David Perry
1999, Cinema-Scene.com

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