Volume 1, Number 20
|Eyes Wide Shut
(Dir: Stanley Kubrick, Starring Tom Cuise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Todd Field, Julienne Davis, and Vanessa Shaw)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Well we now have a new choice for best film of the year so far. Eyes Wide Shut is a mesmerizing piece of film artistry that serves as a proper end to such a director. Stanley Kubrick has proven that there really is no other American director that could enhance the film experience (I threw in the American remark because I'm still a bigger Hitchcock fan). The film is a haunting work that leaves the viewer stunned for the rest of the day, always questioning exactly what happened.
After long unconfirmed rumors ranging from Kidman and Cruise really having sex for the camera to Cruise wearing a dress, the film takes its own way, never really doing anything rumored with the exception of the orgy scene. The film more or less follows the days of jealousy that mark Dr. Bill Harford (Cruise) after his wife Alice (Kidman) admits to a certain indiscretion she once had. He goes out into New York City finding different people that intice his sexual need to get back at his wife for the jealousy that she has left him with. This trek through the city allows him to run into a old college friend who now plays the piano at a small bar. This friend Nick Nightengale (Field) makes the mistake of allowing Bill to get information on a certain party that will occur later that night. The rest of the film follows his visit and the aftermath to this party that is much like a cult get together with sex.
This is, without a doubt, the best performance that Cruise has brought to the screen. I have been an admitted nay sayer to Cruise for years only conceding that he was good in Interview with the Vampire, Jerry Maguire, and Born on the Fourth of July. This is a new top for the actor, and hopefully the beginning of him taking a new type of emotion in his performances. Still I think that in the acting department, the film is carried by two near supporting performers: Nicole Kidman and Sydney Pollack. Kidman gives an emotional power-house performance that deserves an Academy Award nomination. I found it actually interesting that Pollack was in the film, due to the fact that the film reminded me somewhat of Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives in its filming and slightly in its subject matter. Pollack shows once again that he, like Martin Scorsese, is one of the few directors that can pull their own weight acting in other people's movies. What really makes this film mesmerizing, though, is the direction of Stanley Kubrick. His style of filmmaking is stamped on every frame of the film, from the well shot ball room dance in the beginning on into the last line of the film. He directs the film with so much care for it that any flaw at the surface is quickly excused by a later moment.
There is one thing of note on the film though, it just is not the erotic film that they tried to sell it as. I think that this is why the film is going to have a drop in sales in a week, too many people will be disappointed that there was no hot sex scene between the stars. In fact the nudity that is there (not counting that blocked in the orgy sequence) is very much like the nudity in a Peter Greenaway or a Luis Buñuel film: its not there for erotica, but for the sake of making characters. In fact the nudity is more of a fearful dread at times than a sensual moment. The moments of tenderness are only close calls like when Cruise begins to find himself in the apartment of a prostitute (Shaw). If the only interest you have in the film is for the nudity and sex, then it will probably be a disappointment. But if you are going to see a thought provoking film than it will serve as a rich and textured experience in film viewing.
Eyes Wide Shut is a fitting tribute to the
greatest filmography ever.
(Dir: Rick Famuyiwa, Starring Omar Epps, Sean Nelson, Taye Diggs, Richard T. Jones, Trent Cameron, Duane Finley, Malinda Williams, LisaRaye, De'aundre Bonds, and Cynthia Martells)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Not too long ago I complained on the state of the African American films of recent day. I believe the rant was sparked by the film Trippin', yet another African American comedy about the non-stop sexual urges of a young man. In fact it seems that for the most part, there are three kinds of films in that genre, the comedies like such, the female get together and cry dramas, and the action films about gangs causing urban crime. The latter seems to appear more often with things like Dead Presidents and Menace II Society. No matter what, most seem to be mean spirited, taking on the oppression. That is not the way with The Wood.
Set in Englewood, California, The Wood does not have a big gun fight or a chance for some rapper turned actor to utter a long list of expletives for a laugh. Instead it relies on likable characters learning through the trials and travails of life. The characters and film are not mean spirited, but they are enjoyable people that are just making their way through life. Too bad that such a good spot in the genre could not be done in a better film.
Despite having very likable characters, The Wood seems just too sappy. It's a look back on those ever so important school years of its three friends and how their bond has lasted to the date of the setting as one of the three friends gets ready to marry. The narrator and star would be Mike (Epps), who, along with Slim (Jones), must find and coerce their friend Roland (Diggs) into getting to his wedding on time. All the while, they reminisce about the old days like when they went to the school dance, getting involved in a robbery in the process and when they wagered on losing their virginity, leading to a seemingly meaningful relationship between young Mike (Nelson) and Alicia (Williams).
The cast is enjoyable, especially Diggs who has
now officially made up for How Stella Got Her Groove Back. The direction from
Famuyiwa does seem novice but gets the point straight. My big problem with the film was in
the script department. It seemed as if it was just the throwing together of disjointed
memories of the two screenwriters. None of the scenarios really stick and serve as any
enjoyable piece of storytelling. Still I commend The Wood for being likable and
for maybe leading to a new genre in the African American film community.
(Dir: Steve Miner, Starring Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Brenden Gleeson, Betty White, and Meredith Salenger)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Steve Miner strikes again with yet another bad film. The Halloween: H20 and Big Bully director seems to be on a role only preceded by Akiva Goldsman (writer of Lost in Space, Batman & Robin, and Practical Magic, just to name a few of his atrocities). In fact, I've never liked anything directed by Miner ranging from the unfunny Soul Man to the sappy Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken to the far from scary House. Of course what do you expect from the guy who directed both Friday the 13th 2 and 3?
With Lake Placid, Miner is set up with one of the hottest writers out there: TV hit writer David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice, Chicago Hope). The fact that Kelley was behind the script did cause me to think that the film may be good, but, alas, it is not.
In the Jaws book of filmmaking, Lake Placid is about the carnage that happens when an alligator happens into a small New England area. Of course instead of the visitor hungry mayor stopping the apprehension of the animal, it is an old lady with ill-fated cattle.
The small town in Maine that serves as a setting for Lake Placid looks straight from the Georgia set Deliverance (I believe the Bridget Fonda character even mentions this in the film). There is a nice, near wave free lake, unnamed though intended as Lake Placid. There a local sheriff (terrific Irish actor Gleeson) takes a water surveyor who finds a little more in the water than he had bargained for. When the remains of the surveyor turn up what seems to be a prehistoric tooth, a museum in New York sends its recently dumped paleontologist (Fonda) to try to see what is there and get her away from her ex-lover boss. Set up with the sheriff, a local environmental agent (Pullman), a alligator loving millionaire (Platt), and a barrage of delicious looking deputies, they find none other than a 30 foot alligator loved by the woman that lives on the lake (White).
Lake Placid rarely goes anywhere beyond killing animals, though when it gets humans, they do throw in the gore. I must admit that there were some genuine laughs (beyond those "boy this is really bad" laughs), mainly revolving around the foul mouthed Betty White character. Gleeson and Pullman both carry their weight in the film, but I thought that Fonda and Platt were somewhat below par. Kelley's script does have its moments, but not enough. Then there is Miner, who might actually defeat Griffin Dunne as the worst modern director.
With a few moments of pure fun, Lake Placid
does dig itself out of a hole, just not far enough.
|Muppets from Space
(Dir: Tim Hill, Voices include Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta, Jerry Nelson, Brian Henson, Kevin Clash, Frank Oz, and starring Jeffrey Tambor)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I must say that I pretty much grew up with the Muppets Movie, so I thought that maybe that child-at-heart would still be present to enjoy this new film from the Muppets. Evidently it was not. I did like A Muppet's Christmas Carol and gave a slight recommendation to Muppet Treasure Island, but Muppets from Space was not near the endearing fun that the others were. Instead it seemed like just a few uses of some rather unfunny and previously used jokes.
For this film, the main Muppet is not Kermit, but Gonzo. I must admit that when I was younger Gonzo was always my favorite, but here he is boring and uninteresting. Gonzo begins to wonder what his family is (after a funny dream sequence involving F. Murray Abraham as Noah), so he begins to find clues. All the clues point to him being from space and that his family is going to come to space to get him. This is great news to K. Edgar Singer (Tambor), a covert operative man in charge of finding aliens. So Singer kidnaps Gonzo and the rest of the bunch must go out and save him.
The film is boring and has little imaginative fun.
The cameos are so blatant (especially the Hulk Hogan one) that not even they are fun (with
maybe the exceptions of Abraham, Pat Hingle, and Ray Liotta). The songs are tough to sit
through as it is just a rehash of some 70s tunes that have been played in every film set
in the 70s. I did laugh a few times, but almost all were at small parts, rarely at
anything substantial. I still liked the characters somewhat, but felt like they had served
their time and it was time for them to retire. What is really scary is that this little 90
minute film seemed much longer than the 157 minute Eyes Wide Shut.