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Volume 1, Number 29



For Love of the Game

(Dir:  Sam Raimi, Starring Kevin Costner, Kelly Preston, John C. Reilly, Jena Malone, Brian Cox, Vince Skully, Steve Lyons, and Ted Raimi)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

I know that he is generally considered the greatest horror film director since a young Kentucky raised director set a killer loose in Haddonfield, Illinois, and changed the face of serial killer gore fests for decades, but Sam Raimi has never really bode well with me.  I'll admit that he is a great director of horror films (just look at the ultra-fun, Corman-esque direction of the Evil Dead series), it is just that none of his films really turn out much better than his good direction.  He always makes the films look good, it is just that what he has to make is a pretty bad film from the up-start. Look at Darkman, or the intriguing yet dismal Quick and the Dead, these are very well directed, but the story, acting, and over-all feel of the films are poor.  That had always been my look at Raimi until I saw A Simple Plan last year.  Using a terrific drama of greed and family values, Raimi finally found the film that was great and could be compared to his direction (what other man could get away with his humongous shoot-out halfway through the film?).  I truly loved A Simple Plan, enough for it to attain a space on my top ten list at the end of the year.  I thought that maybe this was a new start for Raimi, having produced such a cult following with The Evil Dead series that he could do some work that was just as artsy, just better quality.  That was until I saw a trailer for his new film For Love of the Game.  I had some hope for it since it was Raimi, but it still looked like Bull Durham II, and I hated Bull Durham (with maybe the exceptions of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins).  Needless to say, For Love of the Game turned out being what I expected.

I found the film to be the same type of tepid romantic dramedy that I have sat through countless times.  Billy Chapel is a forty year-old baseball pitcher that looks to be losing his two prized possessions:  his five year girlfriend Jane (Preston) and his beloved Detroit Tigers.  He remembers all the times he had spent with Jane and her daughter (Malone; arguably one of the worst young actresses there are) as well as the 22-year affair he has had playing for the Tigers' owner (Cox).  All this goes through his mind via flashbacks as he thinks about the pain he is getting pitching in what could be his final game before retirement, a game which could very well turn out to be a perfect game.

The film is full of plot holes and extreme predictability.  Every point of the film seems written in the stone which is called formula filmmaking. Raimi, try as he might, could not make this material seem fresh or exciting. I'll admit that there were some fun Raimi moments, most notable being when Billy blocks out the screaming crowd in his mind, but that is used too many times afterwards that it gets old.  Preston and Costner give equally flat performances, as Malone gives the same performance she gave just as unconvincingly in Stepmom.  The always great Brian Cox is enjoyable to watch, though he is unbelievably underused.  The only thing in the film that never gets old and gets sufficient screentime is the performance of John C. Reilly, whom as always is hilarious.  The fact of the matter is that as much as it may hurt to say it, it looks like Sam Raimi has gone into film direction recession.


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The Blair Witch Project

(Dir: Anne Wheeler, Starring Karyn Dwyer, Christina Cox, Anne-Marie MacDonald, Peter Outerbridge, Wendy Crewson, and Kevin Mundy)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

Better Than Chocolate

(Dir: Anne Wheeler, Starring Karyn Dwyer, Christina Cox, Anne-Marie MacDonald, Peter Outerbridge, Wendy Crewson, and Kevin Mundy)

Just a week after evenly panning the gay comedy trick, I'm brought into a near remake, just with lesbians this time around.  Better Than Chocolate is earnest and trying, but never picks up anywhere.  I thought that the performers were putting forth a bit of an effort, but just were unable to perfectly find their mark.

The film is mainly about Maggie, a young Canadian 19 year old that has just quit college only to become a worker at a gay-oriented shop called 10 Percent Books.  She is actually happy with her life, falling in love with an artist (Cox) that goes around in her van painting passerby's for twenty dollars and sleeping her nights on the couch in the shop.  But everything changes when her mother (Crewson) leaves her father and decides that she and her son (Mundy) should move in with Maggie.  Maggie must find a place to live that will conform to her lesbian lifestyle, allow the inclusion of her brother and mother, and meets the grand scale description Maggie had given to her unsuspecting mother.  The house she finds is the pad of a fellow lesbian that has her apartment filled with dildos of all types.  From there she must keep her sexual preference a secret from her mother, while joining the shop's owner (MacDonald) in fighting the Canadian customs over holding some books at the border due to excessive sexuality.

The film seems at times to be a late night romp on Cinemax, other times to be a lesbianized Simply Irresistible.  The actors seem to try (with the exception of the unbelievably over playing MacDonald), but always fail.  The direction is by the book and the writing is simply terrible.  The thing that I thought was the worst part was actually the musical choices.  It sounded like a mix of Lilith Fair artists, all of whose lyrics coincid with what was happening in the present scene (a character leaves town, so does the song).  Though the film is more watchable than trick, it is not that much more engaging.  I guess that I shall never see a lesbian comedy work like what Bound did for lesbian thrillers.


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Existo

(Dir: Coke Sams, Starring Bruce Arntson, Jackie Welch, Jenny Littleton, Gailard Sartain, Mark Cabus, Mike Montgomery, Jim Varney, Denice Hicks, David Alford, Barry Scott, Matt Carlton, and Ray Thornton)

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BY: DAVID PERRY

There are some films that are lost causes.  They are complete wastes of time should never have been made and are not of any great use.  Films like Gummo and Dune, films that I'm usually the type of person that comes to the defense of, films that are original and new, films that are like nothing I've seen before.  The difference between those films from films of innovators like David Cronenberg and David Fincher is that at least the latter two have artistic worth and interesting stories. Gummo and Dune, as well as Existo, are senseless, mind-numbing films that are terrors to sit through and scary to think that they could have cult followings.  I stood up and cheered A Clockwork Orange, Naked Lunch, and Se7en, films that, though crazed and unusual in filming, were great stories that were well directed.

As much as it pains me to go to the trouble, I shall actually tell what the film is about.  Existo (Arntson) is a radical musical theatre performer that spends his shows shouting out expletives or using enlarged male genitalia as a pogo stick.  He is the toast of the underground art scene in a metropolis under suppression by a right-wing religious bigwig named Glasscock (Montgomery).  To stop him from ruining the political future for conservative principles with corruption, Glasscock sends a modern day Mata Hari (Littleton) to seduce Existo, taking him from his long love and founder (Welch) and causing a hopeful end to this destructive artistic freedom that Existo is advocating.

Existo is so bad that I'm nearly speechless, rarely does a film impact me so disjointedly that I cannot really stand thinking about the film any further.  Earlier this year I spoke of the horrors of sitting through Detroit Rock City, this film is just as bad, if not worse.  Existo is without a doubt the worst musical I've seen since Xanadu and the most disturbing comedy I can recall seeing.  It is a terrible piece of filmmaking with a far from subtle liberal agenda with a film style that would scare off David Lynch.  To put it simply, Existo is just bad.


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

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