Volume 1, Number 25
|Teaching Mrs. Tingle
(Dir: Kevin Williamson, Starring Katie Holmes, Helen Mirren, Barry Watson, Marisa Coughlin, Jeffrey Tambor, Leslie Ann Warren, Molly Ringwald, Michael McKean, and Vivica A. Fox)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I can admit that there was a time about two or three years ago that I would have sung the praises of young screenwriter Kevin Williamson, of course at that time he has only produced one screenplay. Now in the years that have followed Scream's release, he has quickly killed off most respect that I once had for him. The first thing that came after Scream was the laughably bad I Know What You Did Last Summer. But by the end of that year he had already thrown out a respectable screenplay for Scream 2 only to replace it with a mediocre one (the fact that I saw Scream 2 seven times is simply because of its enjoyability to see time and again and not in its utter perfection in filmmaking). Since then Williamson projects have seen the light of day running from the bad The Faculty to the awful Dawson's Creek television series (one must say that the only director that ever is mentioned on the show, which once touted itself as being film savvy, is Steven Spielberg). By the release of Teaching Mrs. Tingle, I was already joyous over Williamson not writing Scream 3 (the project has been handed to Arlington Road scribe Ehren Kruger).
Dealing with what happens when three students (Holmes, Watson, Coughlin) take their teacher (Mirren; a suprise to grace such a film) hostage when she has the ability to ruin the leader's chances of being valedictorian. Teaching Mrs. Tingle, directed and written by Williamson, is one of the worst teen horror films I've seen in quite the while. Besides the inclusion of a well versed actress in the Tingle character, the film falls just as flat as other films of the genre like Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Rage: Carrie II (I'll at least admit that there is very little that this film could do to fall below I Still Know What You Did Last Summer). The normal weighty screenplay from Williamson seems much more frothy in this, I'd come highly close to saying that this is more a comedy than a horror film. The comedy falls flat throughout and the action is laughably bad (I've never been the biggest of fans with camera's showing the eye-view of a bullet, and this film's arrows are no exceptions).
The film is off-putting and over-long, a terrible
experience to sit through and the official end to any and all respect for Kevin
|Mickey Blue Eyes
(Dir: Kelly Makin, Starring Hugh Grant, James Caan, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Burt Young, James Fox, Joe Viterelli, Gerry Becker, Maddie Corman, and Tony Darrow)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I know that I can be a little bit of a sour fellow when I see bad films, but the only films that I dislike that I can be rather nice to are those that are likable, though unable to work. That is such the case with Mickey Blue Eyes. Very little of the film is funny, a problem when the film is a simple comedy, but I still liked many things about the film. Sure it was maybe one laugh every five minutes if that, at least the film has charm (something even the hilarious Drop Dead Gorgeous can't admit to having). I was not really expecting some film of Bowfinger proportions, but at least I did laugh a few times.
One person that can be thanked for the charm of the film is Hugh Grant, who continually shows off the fact that he has a certain element that works for him in romantic comedies (a thing that Robert DeNiro does not even have, though I'd be interested to see Grant try to do Travis Bickle). The latest stuff from Grant have all been quite on the shoulders of Grant, especially in Notting Hill. Mickey Blue Eyes, for all its worth, is no exception.
The film is a The Godfather type comedy with many jokes playing off the entire mobster image. Sure many parts of the film were reminiscent of Analyze This (would mob comedies be the equivalent of Antz and A Bug's Life competition last year?). About the relationship that follows after a man (Grant) become engaged with the daughter (Tripplehorn) of a mobster (Caan) and begins to find himself "one of the guys." He attempts to keep completely uninvolved with the mafia he is marrying into, but after the delivery men are instructed to make sure that deliveries to the auction house he manages are perfect, it is then expected that he do a favor, which leads to another favor, which leads to...
Not the best film I've seen this year, nor the best mob
comedy as Analyze This is three times funnier. I liked certain scenes of the
film, as well as the performances of Caan and Grant, though Tripplehorn is in her normal
bad actress mode. Charming and likable, Mickey Blue Eyes seems to be missing one
thing that is needed for comedies...a funny script.
|The Loss of Sexual Innocence
(Dir: Mike Figgis, Starring Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows, Stefano Dionisi, Kelly MacDonald, Gina McKee, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and Bernard Hill)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Mike Figgis could go in the books as one the most off-beat and unpredictable directors out there. He might make a beautiful drama like Leaving Las Vegas, or he might serve you with the ugliest of ugly films, Mr. Jones. Entering into the theatre for The Loss of Sexual Innocence, I was completely unsure of which I would be seeing, the good or the bad Figgis. Most critics had disliked the film, including Leonard Maltin who gave it his lowest rating, but Roger Ebert thoroughly liked the film. So what exactly was The Loss of Sexual Innocence? More or less, boring.
I can safely say that no other film has been more of a task to sit through than this, every scene comes leaving you hoping that the next will be the title scroll (a problem found quite often since Figgis enjoys black fades for dramatic effect). I was squirming in my seat continually, thanks to the uncontrollable repetitiveness and the unbelievable murkiness of the film. No, I'm not saying that I wanted a light, happy film, but the darkness and the cynicism of the film was actually a turn off in the film. For a film to be meant as a testament to the natural act of sex, it was rather dim in its view, almost as if it was Pat Buchanan's The Loss of Sexual Innocence.
The film is more or less vignettes of one man's life and the many moments in it when he seems to have lost his sexual innocence, ranging from spying a near nude woman as a small child in Kenya to walking into a bathroom filled with pornographic pictures on the floor on a road trip with his wife and child. The man, played by Sands, is a documentary filmmaker, who is set to film in Africa and remembering this stuff on the way. What real meaning does this have? It's not really clear, nor am I terribly interested in trying to figure it out. Oh, and by the way, intermittently during this story, we are shown the birth of Adam and Eve to their subsequent dismissal from the Garden of Eden (a part of the film that I will admit to liking).
The film is well shot, that is one thing that I cannot
say is wrong with the film, but it just is not enough to completely give merit to this
film. I've seen some bad films over the years that have tried to be risqué, but none of
them had the biting commentary of Happiness or Election, neither of
which had any nudity to my recollection. The script does not carry the film, nor does it
really seem like there is one, the film is mostly silence, and let's face it, Mike Figgis
is no Ingmar Bergman (has Bergman become the official comparison to anybody that tries
something in films these days?). There were small moments of the film that I liked, but
(Dir: Jonathan Kaplan, Starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jacqui Kim, Daniel Lapaine, and Amanda De Cadenet)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Sometimes I get to have a little fun with movies by thinking of how many times I've seen the film before, just done slightly different. With Brokedown Palace, I could come up with the obvious Midnight Express,as well as Return to Paradise (both dealing with being jailed for narcotics charges). Then there is the less obvious Paradise Road (women in a troubled moment in a prison-like situation), The Sweet Hereafter (for the caring lawyer that seems more interested in the money, though he is probably not), Red Corner (the Asian court system at work), and just for kicks, Switchblade Sisters and American History X (don't ask, they just seem to work in my mind). Needless to say, Brokedown Palace is not an original film, nor is it anything new, still I cannot help but to like the film at moments. No it is no achievement nor is it that good, but I still thought it had some merits.
It's about two girls, Alice (Danes) and Darlene (Beckinsale), sent to Thai prison for seemingly attempting to smuggle narcotics to Hong Kong. Though whether they did intend on it was a secret from the audience, it seems that they were set up by a young gentleman (Lapaine) who tries to seduce them and then convinces them to go to Hong Kong even though their parents are under the impression that they are going to Hawaii for their graduation trip. They are imprisoned in a all-women's prison, where they find that they cannot stay together as they should because each blames the other. Their case comes to interest to a American lawyer in Thailand named Yankee Hank (Pullman) that takes their case after their parents agree to pay (though Darlene's father is completely blaming Alice).
Many parts of the film are completely implausible,
especially in the film's finale. All the same there were merits to the film. Not the over
acting of the two leads, or the over dramatic direction of Kaplan, but the way the film
feels and the story were likeable and there were parts of the film that were well done. I
earlier compared the film to seven films and Brokedown Palace was actually better
than four of them (all but The Sweet Hereafter, American History X, and Midnight
|Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl
(Dir: Joan Chen, Starring Lu Lu, Lopsang, Jie Gao, Wengqiang Wang, Jiangchi Min, Li QianQan, and Lu Yue)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Xiu Xiu (Lu Lu) is a sixteen year old girl in China in the 1970's during the Cultural Revolution, who decides to join in on a little thing where students are in a army type regime. During the last few months of the regime, Xiu Xiu is sent to the Chinese hills to be the apprentice for a neutered horse trainer for six months named Lao Jin (Lopsang). During the course of the six months, Lao Jin begins to have feelings for the harsh and uncaring Xiu Xiu. She is young and unaware of what true love means, but Lao Jin, well into his fifties if not older, has been through so much pain and loneliness in his life that Xiu Xiu becomes his life. When she begins to take on prostitution to get a pass home, the real pain is in the eyes of Lao Jin, who comes to understand that there will not and could not have ever been anything between the two of them, they are just too different.
A moody and subtle film, Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl
is a lyrical portrait of love and pain, forever unflinching. Directed by the Joy Luck
Club and The Last Emperor actress Joan Chen under the strictest of
conditions (she had to smuggle the film out of China since she filmed it without the
government's approval and now she is banned from working in the country), the film's only
major flaw seems to be in the pacing, a problem I believe that Chen would have fixed had
she been able to watch the daily work or reshoot (another casualty to the lack of
government cooperation). The two leads are unbelievable, especially Lopsang, who gives
more of a performance in his eyes than Matt Dillon in his entire body of work. That is not
to take away from Lu Lu who gives quite the performance for a girl aged only 17. Xiu
Xiu: The Sent Down Girl is not only an important film politically, but also
|Universal Soldier: The Return
(Dir: Mic Rodgers, Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Jai White, Bill Goldberg, Heidi Schanz, Xander Berkeley, Justin Lazard, Kiana Tom, Daniel von Bargen, James Black, Karis Paige Bryant, and Brent Hinkley)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I must admit that I have one of the worst memories when it comes to action films. I could name off every Oscar winner for the six major categories, the directors of hundreds of film, cinematographers of note, pivotal silent films, but my memory never seems to stick with me when it comes to a "dumb" action film. The adjective there is not completely meant to point towards the feeling about the film (though that is generally my feelings towards action films of that type) but that is actually the type of genre of the films where the film can be so dumb that it is fun for some people. The reason my memory on these films is important in a review of Universal Soldier: The Return is that I truthfully cannot remember much about the original Universal Soldier. In fact the only things that I could have really remembered before seeing the sequel were that it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and it was about dead soldiers becoming the ultimate fighting machines. Before seeing the second chapter in the Universal Soldier story (fourth if you want to get technical [long story; check your video store]), I did not go on any big search on information about the original that I would need for this since I decided that the makers of the film should know very well that no one really remembers stuff from the original and that the entire backstory would be attached to this. I was right.
While the straight-to-video Universal Soldier 2: Brothers in Arms picked up right where the original ended, this one is instead six years later and acts as if numbers two and three never happened (much like Halloween: H20 forgetting the third through the sixth Halloween). Once again the cyborgs go crazy, but this time it is because the super-genius computer SETH (White) has decided that it is now time to take over the UniSol project and take command of the weaponry stationed in the projects headquarters. The only problem is that for SETH to be able to stay on-line without the help of technicians he must retrieve a code before eight hours is up. Only two people know the code: the founder of the project who SETH kills early on and an ex-UniSol (Van Damme) that has become a regular person with a child. As the race begins to get Van Damme and the code, we are subjected to many explosions and many broken necks and shot-up bodies.
The film is violent, though nothing like Michael Mann's Heat, more in the line of Terminator. It is actually only about an hour and a half in length, but I would have sworn that it was the length of Beloved. Directed with as much abandon as that of Michael Bay, Universal Soldier: The Return is a waste of time and money. I doubt that the film will be some great money maker, nor will it see any Oscar nominations awaiting it in February. Loud and boring, the film is pretty bad and a safe bet for worse of the year so far.
So did it make the film worse having not remembered much
from the original? I doubt it, I could not see me ever liking the film anymore than I do
(or should that be "don't"?).