Volume 1, Number 33
|The Story of Us
(Dir: Rob Reiner, Starring Bruce Willis, Michele Pfeiffer, Tim Matheson, Rob Reiner, Rita Wilson, Paul Reiser, Julie Hagerty, Colleen Rennison, Jake Sandvig, Jayne Meadows, Tom Poston, Betty White, and Red Buttons)
BY: DAVID PERRY
There are some directors that I never can make up my mind as to whether I trust them. Names like Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola come to mind. Another name would be the crowned king of unpredictable: Rob Reiner. Sometimes I am astounded by Reiner with films like A Few Good Men and Misery, sometimes I'm indifferent with films like This Is Spinal Tap and The American President, often I'm disappointed with Ghosts of Mississippi and North. In fact, now that I think about it, North is one of the worst films I've ever seen. Then again, Reiner has also offered one of the best romantic comedies in my humble opinion. When Harry Met Sally... was the best of its genre for the eighties and the best since Woody Allen's Annie Hall. I still like to look back at that film and remember a good romantic comedy instead of this Runaway Bride crap I've had to sit through recently. With the success of When Harry Met Sally... I was actually allowing myself to look forward towards The Story of Us, a type of When Harry Met Sally...and Then Separated.
After fifteen years of marriage, Ben (Willis) and Katie Jordan (Pfeiffer) find themselves at a marital slump. Neither of them are truly happy together anymore and only produce a visage of happiness for their two children (Rennison and Sandvig). When the two kids are shipped off to summer camp, the couple decides to spend time in separate homes and Ben moves into a hotel room. The film pretty much looks at what has happened to them both presently and in the past, and at the whole idea of marriage through the eyes of their tremendously in need of psycho therapy friends (Wilson, Reiner, Reiser, and Hagerty).
The film is a bore, not only because there is not moment
of true joy, but also because the whole film seems like a big fight. The two spend the
duration of the film bickering and remembering bickering. The ending is so implausible
that I felt like throwing my bag of overly buttered popcorn at the screen, or at least at
Reiner. Neither of the leads give any performance that might be considered for a Golden
Globe (then again, we must remember it is the Golden Globes). The film is overlong and
pushed. I did actually like the music by Eric Clapton and Mark Shaiman, at least until
they played the same "I'm sorry" piece for the tenth time. The only thing that I
liked without a hitch was a quick montage of the marriage that goes by in the last reel.
Of course this montage was the theatrical trailer, so it would actually be more enjoyable
to simply watch the trailer and not the movie.
(Dir: David Fincher, Starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Jared Leto, Zach Grenier, and Eion Bailey)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Earlier this year I had the treat of singing the praises of one of those three directors of the vanguard that happen to share my first name. David Cronenberg's eXistenZ was the second film this year to receive substantial respect from me (first being The Matrix) and the first film this year to receive an A/**** rating (The Matrix ran off with an A-/***1/2). In enjoying eXistenZ, I also had the chance to remember that there were two more vanguard David's to release films this year. The second was David Lynch's The Straight Story, a uniquely quiet and down to Earth film for the Blue Velvet director. I have yet to see The Straight Story since it is only in limited markets right now. The third one and present one is from the greatest director to come from music videos, David Fincher. After directing two great films (Se7en and The Game) and one well made but poorly written film (Alien³) Fincher has taken some time off to make a film that was said to have blown away anything Fincher has made before. The project is Fight Club, a look at the violent side to every man, and is a good film. But I hate to break it to Fincher, it's still no Se7en.
Fight Club is told through the eyes of Edward Norton, a man that lives his life in a cubicle, only getting out to fly around and lose track of where he is. He becomes lost in this occupational world until he finds refuge in a crazed soap producer named Tyler Durden (Pitt). He and Durden create a club for men, in which they get together and beat each other to a bloody pulp, a type of working man's street fight. As the club progresses, so does the malice in the acts of Durden, becoming a wanted terrorist and producing a new project to make everything okay in the world.
The film is an unbelievable, uncontrolled piece of art. I'd say that Fincher joins Terrence Malick, Quentin Tarantino, and Paul Thomas Anderson as the best directors that have done only a handful of films. The film is a wild ride and a treat to look at. It is almost as much a treat to listen to as it is to watch with a adrenaline filled score by The Dust Brothers and a great closing song by The Pixies (can I hear a Golden Brando heading to Fight Club?). Norton and Pitt both shine in performances that they were born to play, Pitt as a 12 Monkeys-esque, carefree individual and Norton as man just understanding his place in life.
It is easy to see that I enjoyed the film immensely, but
one question might arise: why a A and not a A+? Very simple, I found myself a little
disturbed with Fincher allowing me to predict a joke from him thirty minutes before it
happens. One of the great things about a Fincher film is that there is very little
predictability and being able to predict a cinematic move on his part left me a little
irked. Oh well, it is still one of the best things I've seen this year, probably the third
best so far this year.
|The Minus Man
(Dir: Hampton Fancher, Starring Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, Brian Cox, Mercedes Ruehl, Dwight Yoakam, Dennis Haysbert, Eric Mabius, Larry Miller, Lois Gerace, Sheryl Crow, and Alex Warren)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Films do not get much more intriguing than The Minus Man. Its subtle performances, underhanded direction, and ambiguous script shine brighter than 90% of the films I've seen this year. The taglines for the film are "Conversation usually follows" and "It'll have you talking for hours," and nothing could be more true. The fact of the matter is that four days after seeing the film, the person I saw it with and I are still talking about the film.
First of all I would like to congratulate Artisan and director Hampton Fancher for producing the perfect theatrical trailer for this film. Not one image from the trailer is shown in the actual film, meaning no scene is given away and the trailer itself on its own is an eye-popping short film. It follows a couple as they leave the theatre after seeing The Minus Man and talk about it for hours, up until dawn in which the woman happens to remember a rather important engagement. That is film artistry and it did not tell me anything beside the title and who was in it (though I would have seen it simply because of Brian Cox).
Now onto the film itself. The Minus Man is about a young serial killer named Vann (Wilson) who drives around drifting into towns and killing people in the least gruesome way imaginable. The film begins with him picking up a drug addict (Crow) in a bar and taking her for a ride. At a rest stop she happens to take a drink of some alcohol lined with poison, and Vann simply gets to make it look like a cocaine overdose. After this he comes upon a small town where he is forced by a police officer (Warren) to find a place to stay. He decides to rent out a room from a couple going through troubled times as their daughter has left home for college. The husband Doug (Cox) is a post office worker who gets Vann a position there, where Vann finds himself the object of the desires of fellow worker Ferrin (Garofalo). The film looks at what goes through the mind of the narrating Vann as he attempts to deal with all these people in his life as well as the impending closeness of the police on his tail.
Wilson sells the character, giving a compassionate
performance and making Vann one of the most likable serial killers since Anthony Hopkins
admitted an affinity towards "fava beans and a nice chianti." The rest of the
cast also gives remarkable performances, especially the always enjoyable Cox. Hampton
Fancher has produced a script that works as if Ted Tally had written it (my favorite
musing is when Vann questions the room's separate access). Fancher (best known for writing
Blade Runner) makes a very good first try at direction, giving the film the edge
that Stir of Echoes lacked. My only real problem with the film is that it seems
to run a little long, overdoing some scenes a bit. Still how can I hold something like
that against a film with such a great ending?
(Dir: Mark Illsley, Starring Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, Ally Walker, William H. Macy, Illeana Douglas, M.C. Gainey, Ron Perlman, and Paul Dooley)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I'm one to keep a pretty good watch of the film scene, especially in the periods of awards and film festivals. Since I never seem to get to go to any of the big festivals like Telluride and Toronto, I'm usually making due with waiting for films to make it to a market near me. So when a film gets great buzz at a festival and has a pretty eager distributor, then I'm usually waiting for the film with open arms. Such was the case with Happy, Texas. After generating good word of mouth at Sundance this year, I was quite happy to hear that Miramax picked it up, meaning that it would surely be in my area. After about three months of waiting it out, the first glimpse of the film came for me in the form of a theatrical trailer. That would be the moment when I threw my arms in the air and said "there's always The Insider to look forward to!" The sophomoric humor present in the trailer was not anything I had hoped from the film. I, the man that laughs his head off at Happiness and Rushmore, was not looking for a film that had strained attempts at laughter by having a character jump around trying to show small children how to dance. My expectations were low and my feelings on the film after seeing it was no different from those that I had with the trailer.
Happy, Texas is a small town in Texas where everybody knows each other and the whole place is, well, happy. They are about to throw their hand into a big beauty pageant, hiring an openly gay couple from a larger city to get their girls into a viable choice for the victors at the pageant. The problem is that instead of the couple, they are given two fugitives who must act like they are the couple. It seems that in a routine convict work effort, three are taken on a separate bus and wrecked. One is a rather mean fellow that leaves the other two behind. With the Texas Rangers in hot pursuit of him, the other two must lay low and let everything smooth over. Their way to get away is in a recreational vehicle they steal and their destination turns out to be the place where the couple they stole it from was heading. With the understanding that they must act like they are gay, the two decide to accept the thousand the town is offering for their services and to rob the bank the day of the pageant. As their time there progresses, one (Northam) finds himself in love with the manager of the bank (Walker) as well as the love of a local sheriff (Macy), while the other (Zahn) must teach the grade school pageant contestants how to shine on the stage.
The film is a completely mistaken comedy. I admittedly
laughed a few times at the film, but there were much more misfires then there were
chuckles. The whole film is supported by its rather good cast. I have been the supporter
of Jeremy Northam for what seems like ages, adoring his performances in An Ideal
Husband and The Winslow Boy recently. His performance works much better than
Zahn since it is much more understated than Zahn's wild antics. I like Zahn most of the
time, but it seemed like he was trying a bit too hard this time around. Macy gives a
rather good performance, the best of the film. The only main roles that are utterly
terrible are Walker and Douglas (doing what seems to be an impression of Shelley Duval).
For what it's worth, Happy, Texas is one of those films that it is really hard to
hate, but still a misfire.
|Edge of Seventeen
(Dir: David Moreton, Starring Chris Stafford, Tina Holmes, Anderson Gabrych, Lea DeLaria, Stephanie McVay, John Eby, Antonio Carriero, Jason Scheingross, and Tony Maietta)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Edge of Seventeen is yet another gay oriented film in which I have been forced to sit through to keep up my quota. Not that I have any predisposition towards the genre (see Get Real review), it is just that I tire of seeing the same thing again and all in the same genre and display. Not only is the film about the normal coming out of the closet for its lead, but also shows him coming of age, what a delightful mixture (yes, sarcasm).
Set in 1984 in a small Ohio community, the film follows Eric (Stafford), a young man in the midst of two relationships stemmed from his summer job at an eatery. The first relationship is with his childhood friend Maggie (Holmes), who sees Eric as simply trying to be different; the other is with a fellow waiter named Rod (Gabrych) who takes Eric into the world of homosexuality. Eric keeps up the relationship with Maggie as a cover to keep his parents from discovering that their son is gay. The affair with Rod comes to an abrupt stop when Eric finally figures out that Rod was simply using him for the sex. But the damage has already been done and now Eric sets out to find that male that can make him happy, heading to a local gay bar (you know, the millions of gay bars that were in small Ohio towns) run by his employer at the eatery (DeLaria). All through this there is two subplots involving Eric trying to get to NYU for work in the music business and the amount of trouble his homemaker mom (McVay) goes through to help pay for him to go there.
The film left me with one really big problem: the story seems to be that homosexuality can be brought on by simple human contact. During the first thirty minutes of the film, Eric seems to be a heterosexual male, even running away when he learns that Rod is gay, but the minute he has two minutes of free time with Rod, Eric is suddenly Boy George. So is homosexuality now like the common cold?.
As for the film itself it is rather shallow and
uninteresting. I must say that none of the three leads had any dynamic appeal, just going
around saying their lines. The only performance that I thought stood out was DeLaria, who
brought a feeling of compassion and understanding to the film which was truly needed. What
ever happened to good films in the genre like Gods and Monsters and Get Real?
|The Omega Code
(Dir: Robert Marcarelli, Starring Casper Van Dien, Michael York, Michael Ironside, Catherine Oxenberg, and Gregory Wagrowski)
BY: DAVID PERRY
You know, there are some films that it is just fun to make fun of. Remember the Ed Wood films like Plan 9 from Outer Space and Glen or Glenda? Those are the classics, who needs Casablanca? In fact one of my favorite films to watch is a so-bad-it's-painfully-funny film called Manos: Hands of Fate. The fact of the matter is that I get almost as many laughs making fun of the film than I get at some of the Pink Panther films (with the great exceptions of The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark). In a given year, I am plagued by bad films like She's All That and The Astronaut's Wife, but sometimes there are bad films that I find pleasure in making fun of. Films like Universal Soldier: The Return are unique pleasures because they are so bad. I never recommend those films because if I was to go into the film with a stoic disposition, than the film could turn out as a choice for worst of the year honors. It's just that sometimes mindless, idiotic, poorly made films can be a hilarious thing to sit through. A bad, yet funny comedy is one that is not trying to be funny.
That could easily apply for the film The Omega Code. Its mistaken attempt at placing allegory in the world of action films is as much a mishap as John Huston's The Bible. The film actually attempts to make Jean Claude van Damme action out of some Nostradamus prediction of a code in the Bible, known as the *dramatic music* Omega Code.
Casper van Dien is famed author and doctor Gillen Lane. His books are widely read and he is a devout believer in the existence and usefulness of the code. Set in present day Europe, the code is seen being used in a computer program by a beloved holy man and scholar. When he is killed by the underling (Ironside) of the chairman of the European Union, Stone Alexander (York), the program becomes useful as it can decide how the world shall progress and allow Alexander to become leader if Jerusalem, a position that, according to the code, will lead to taking over the world. Lane is chosen as an assistant to Alexander as he does his best to form a World Union, somewhat similar to a ten-man United Nations. With all but the last line of the code, Alexander has the ability to do anything to make all the prophecies come true, at least until he gets to the last line.
The film is idiotic fun. Arguably some of the worst lines
of dialogue, special effects, storyline, subplots, and acting I've seen this year. In fact
the only thing that is allowing this film to stretch over an F rating is that I found York
to be deliciously fun as the bad guy. If this does not spell the end of Van Dien's career,
than I don't know what can.