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Volume 1, Number 19



American Pie

(Dir: Paul Weitz, Starring Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Mena Suvari, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth, Eugene Levy, Natasha Lyonne, Seann William Scott, and Chris Owen)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Called the return to teen sex comedies, American Pie serves more as a return to the boring dreck that came out this Spring in teen films like She's All That. It is neither funny nor sincere (a stupid asset Roger Ebert found in it).

American Pie did remind me of the film that everyone referenced it to: Porky's. The thing is that I hated Porky's and its sequels, as well as creator Bob Clark's Baby Geniuses. I did not hate American Pie as much as Porky's, but I did find it to be worthless.

American Pie more or less is about the pact made by four friends. The pact is that all four of them will lose their virginity by the end of this, their senior year. The main friend seems to be Jim, a down on his luck fellow with a crush on the foreign exchange student Nadia (Elizabeth). Another is Kevin (Nicholas), who seriously ruined his relationship with girlfriend Vicky (Reid) by wanting a little more than third base. The jock of the group is lacrosse star Oz (Klein), who has made a reputation as a ladies man, so he must join the glee club to show his softer side. There he finds a relationship with Heather (Suvari) by becoming her duet partner. The fourth is Finch (Adams), who more or less sits back and lets the girls spread nice rumors about him. Finch is easily the most interesting of all the characters in the film, yet he is one of the least filmed. Well the four have less than astounding luck for a while until the film culminates at the senior prom (ARGH!; I said if I saw one more senior dance this year I'd scream).

The film does have its funny points, mostly involving the always funny Eugene Levy as Jim's father and Alyson Hannigan as the school nerd obsessed with band camp. In fact those two performances could actually make an enjoyable film if there wasn't any pointless parts between (may I remind you that I thought Hannigan saved Dead Man on Campus from the dreaded F rating). But all in all the film is boring. All the young cast set forth poor jobs, especially Nicholas who still suffers from being remembered for Rookie of the Year. The only time the script really shined was when it came from the two aforementioned performances and when it centered around the Finch character and Vicky's friend Jessica (Lyonne). My rating is a little higher than it normally would have been if it was not for a few kudos that I found in the film that made it almost worth seeing.


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Arlington Road

(Dir: Mark Pellington, Starring Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Hope Davis, Robert Gossett, Spencer Treat Clark, and Mason Gamble)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

I know that I take quite a bit of slack because of my love for dark and disturbing films, so I wouldn't be too suprised if my adoration for Arlington Road is not equaled by many.

After a long period of hiatus, the Sony driven thriller finally comes to the screen and goes beyond any expectation I could have had. When it tries to be thrilling, it works; when it tries to be funny, it works; when it tries to be startling, it really works.

Arlington Road is a film about the paranoia that ensues a mild mannered suburban widower whose neighbors may be a little less perfect than they seem. Michael Faraday (Bridges) saves the life of a young man he has never seen before. The weird thing is that the boy has lived across the street from Faraday for two months. In thanks, the boy's parents Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Robbins and Cusack) begin a friendly relationship with Michael and his girlfriend Brooke (Davis). This is perfect for Michael's son Grant (Clark) who quickly makes friends with the maimed Brady Lang (Gamble) giving way to his oft visits to the Lang household. What begins as a nice friendship, leads to a paranoid Faraday fearing that his neighbor may very well be like those in a course he teaches: a terrorist bomber.

Arlington Road is very well made from a tense beginning to a very serene middle act and on into a thrilling last reel. Bridges sets out a good performance, but the film lies on the shoulders of Cusack and Robbins. The two perfectly mix pleasantness with a crazy edge (somewhat reminding me of Serial Mom for some reason). I also thought that it was terrifically directed by Mark Pellington (Going All the Way). What I think works the best in the film is its well crafted script by Scream 3 scribe Ehren Kruger. The only real problems seem to be the pacing and the poor performances from Clark and Davis.

A well crafted thriller, Arlington Road is the best mainstream film I've seen since Go.


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Get Real

(Dir: Simon Shore, Starring Ben Silverstone, Brad Gorton, Charlotte Brittain, Stacey Hart, David Lumsden, Jacquetta May, Kate McEnery, Patrick Nielsen, Tim Harris, James D. White, Louise J. Taylor, David Elliot, and Morgan Jones)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

If there is one thing that I adamantly hate in films today it would be in the genre of teen comedies. I have sit through just too many over the years. Painful crap like She's All That and 200 Cigarettes, all so bad that mixed together, they could not garner a recommendation. This had seemed to be the case for the year (with the exception of Never Been Kissed) until I found the problem when watching Get Real...all of them are too heterosexual. No, I'm not trying to put out some political belief here, but I had yet to see such performances from a teen cast in the other films. The performance from Silverstone in Get Real is way beyond anything Freddie Prinze Jr. could dream of.

Get Real is about a 16 year old in England that is gay, but chooses not to let it be known. Steven Carter (Silverstone) has known that he is gay since he was 11, but only himself and his neighbor/friend Linda (Brittain) know his secret. He normally just sits around the local park and finds men at the restroom. It is at that location that he finds his first love, John Dixon (Gorton). Not only is John one of the more popular guys at school, but he is also very closeted. He likes Steven but cannot help but want to keep any relationship they might have in the closet as well. Steven goes to great lengths to get near John, despite John's many complaints. One of the things Steven does is join the school magazine staff so he can take pictures of John. This turns out a problem because one of the female writers for the magazine (Hart) begins to get a crush on Steven.

The performances in this are beyond anything I've seen English language in an American released this year. I find it interesting that the best female performances this year have been in a French film and the best male performance has been in a British film. Both Silverstone and Gorton are terrific in their somewhat equal, yet somewhat distant characters, with Silverstone shining well beyond Gorton. The script is well written by Patrick Wilde (who wrote the play basis for the film, What's Wrong with Angry). I also thoroughly liked the direction by Shore, especially in a beautifully crafted single cut and pan through a dance at the school prom (if the other proms I've seen this year had been this well directed then I might not have been so tired of them). My only problem with the film was in that it is a bit overlong, especially in the middle third. Though I have seen very little in the genre of homosexual films, Get Real joins Gods and Monsters as the few good ones in the bunch (just see Jeffrey and Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss to see just how bad gay films can get).


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Besieged

(Dir: Bernardo Bertolucci, Starring Thandie Newton, David Thewlis, and Claudio Santamaria)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

I guess that I would count as a somewhat fan of Bernardo Bertolucci. His films ranging from character studies (Last Tango in Paris) to epics (The Last Emperor) have almost always enthralled me. Unfortunately that is not the case with Besieged. Telling the story of will she/won't she, Besieged has about as much faith in its storytelling as it has dialogue (my guess is that there may be 8 pages worth of dialogue in the entire film).

This would be shallow filmmaking at its best. It has beautiful visuals and looks good, but has no emotions or care in the entire ninety minutes. Yes, the characters seem to want to have emotion, but rarely is anything even near that shown. Instead we are treated to long shots of people staring at each other. If watching David Thewlis watch Thandie Newton iron clothing is your cup of tea, than this might be perfect for you, but otherwise it is an overlong bore. Not once was I truly interested in the characters in this film or what future they might lead. Yes, Bertolucci shows us a bunch of nice scenery, especially ranging in Rome, but he is no Ingmar Bergman with the camera. When Bergman would take a quiet close up on Ingrid Thulin or Liv Ullman, there was honest feeling there, with Bertolucci it is how many shots of Newton he can have before showing her nude. In fact that seems to be all he cares about here, what can he intice us with. Sure it happened with Stealing Beauty and it worked then. But it does not work now.

I liked the performance of David Thewlis as Mr. Kinsky, a pianist that falls deeply for an African lodger named Shandurai (Newton) despite the fact that she is married to a jailed African freedom fighter (when he is taken away, Bertolucci's choice to show fear in Newton is...urinate on herself). Newton gives a dry and uninteresting performance, easily overshadowed by the commanding and eloquent one from Thewlis. I liked what I saw at times, but little else, though I did like its nice subtle questioning ending.


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Blatant Opinion: Well we are down to the final days. Eyes Wide Shut is upon us and the hype is beginning to take over every Kubrick fan. I must say that the marketing campaign run by Warner Bros. has been ingenious. Not once would I say that they have given away too much of the story (a big problem I had with Sony about Arlington Road). The theatrical trailer has been a sweet present given to me before viewings of Wild Wild West, The General's Daughter, and Get Real. The television commercials with the single piano has been exquisitely crafted. I'm about to bust if I do not see this film. But there are some things to set to the side.

First of all, what am I to expect? I know that it supposedly will be pushing the sex and nudity envelope for a R rating, so it would be good idea not to invite a church group to go with me. The fact that it had a NC-17 until some computer generated blockers came, should say that the nudity level is not just a slight rumor. The trailers make the film look dark and mysterious, exactly the type of film I like best.

Secondly, what might be the future from Eyes Wide Shut? I think that unless the film is a total critical and financial failure, Nicole Kidman and Stanley Kubrick are pretty much promised Academy Award nominations. Cruise might get one, considering that he is better liked in Hollywood than liked by me. The early predictions point at the film to make well over $100 million, becoming the biggest grossing Kubrick film. If those going to the film for the Kidman nudity are intrigued by Kubrick's style of filmmaking, then there might be a new wave of Kubrick fans. All I know is that if Dr. Strangelove rentals increase across the land then I shall be happy.

Finally, what if the film is a disappointment? Well no critic has disliked it yet. That includes Richard Schickel of Time Magazine, Todd McCarthy of Variety, Jack Kroll of Newsweek, David Hunter of The Hollywood Reporter, and "the man that broke the trust of Warner Bros." Alexander Walker of This Is London. Plus Roger Ebert is devoting next week's episode of Siskel and Ebert to the film, so chances are he liked it. I'm choosing not to read any reviews so as to be completely unknowledgable when I enter the film, the way Kubrick wanted it. Still it is doubtful I will dislike the film. I have liked all of Kubrick's films, in fact of the 11 I've seen (Kubrick kept Fear and Desire off of television and video), I have given an A or A+ rating to all but two. Those two being his second film, the well shot but less than enthralling Killer's Kiss, and his last film, Full Metal Jacket with its mesmerizing first half and then its uninteresting second half. Sure his last film was sub-par for him, but it did not have a terrific trailer like Eyes Wide Shut does (maybe not the best excuse, but keep in mind that I'm a little preoccupied with the waiting right now). If it is bad, I'll admit it. But I still doubt it, all the same.

Well, I'm going to be there at the Hollywood 27 or Green Hills 16 Friday 16 July at the first showtime. No one will keep me from seeing this film on opening day, a film that marks what will probably the most hyped I will ever be about one film (think about it: 2nd favorite director, last film, 13 years since previous film).


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

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