Volume 1, Number 35
|Crazy in Alabama
(Dir: Antonio Banderas, Starring Lucas Black, Melanie Griffith, David Morse, Meat Loaf Aday, John Beasley, Richard Schiff, Cathy Moriarty, Rod Steiger, John Beasley, and Robert Wagner)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Crazy in Alabama is one of those crowd-pleasers that I cannot stand. The whole feel and look of the film is reminiscent of October Sky and Patch Adams, my two favorite films to pick on as crowd-pleasers. The film is exactly what the normal viewing audience might like and also what the normal film critic would dislike.
Admittedly it is not near as sappy as the other two I named, but Crazy in Alabama might have been if it had been just a little more convoluted. The struggle that the film goes through to work three interlocking stories with the same amount of importance is impossible with how director Banderas treats it. Trying to tell the story of (1) a woman's struggle to become a famous actress after killing her husband, (2) a young man's realization of life in the South without parents, and (3) the civil rights struggle in a small Alabama town is just too complicated. The three stories all are linked by Peejoe (Black), the nephew of the wannabe actress Lucille (Griffith), young man learning life from his Uncle Dove (Morse), and witness to local Sheriff Doggett's (Aday) murder of a young black boy trying to get a chance to swim in the local pool.
Banderas was not a good choice to direct this film with his unknowing campy angles and slow-motion shots that leave the viewer appalled. I shall admit that if given a little more practice, Banderas might be able to make up an ability in the field, but one must remember that practice has not helped his acting ability lately.
The cast is hit and miss with Morse and Aday both giving very able performances (the best form Aday besides Fight Club), while Black and Griffith prove why I've never called them acting powerhouses (though I did give Griffith kudos a long time ago with Working Girl). In fact Black is easily one of the lesser child actors in films right now. Let's face it, he's no Mason Gamble. In a cameo, Stieger once again takes the chance to chew the scenery with the hammiest acting known to man (as much as I make fun of his acting, Steiger is still fun to watch; much like the pleasure of watching Charleton Heston overact).
The screenplay has its moments, mostly occurring in the
scenes in which Lucille is on the run from the police, talking to the head of her dead
husband, and finding a career in television. Still the film is nothing
special. Maybe if they had made it a ninety minute film on just the Lucille story, I
might have liked the film much more.
|The House on Haunted Hill
(Dir: William Malone, Starring Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Bridgette Wilson, Peter Gallagher, and Chris Kattan)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Earlier this year I actually allowed myself to look forward to some horror films. I'm usually the first person to discard a horror film, but this year I found myself awaiting three. One was a purely original one that I turned out recommending (The Blair Witch Project), another was moved to February of next year (Scream 3). The other film was The Haunting. The trailer for the film did so much to get me hyped that my normally marginal C rating for it served as a bit of disappointment for me. It was just that the film had so much going for it: a pretty good cast, a beautiful art direction, and an original horror classic as a basis (it was a remake of Robert Wise's The Haunting from 1963). The film made me so unhappy that even when I walked into The Blair Witch Project, I was a little fearful of what might occur (despite a raving review from Roger Ebert). That cynicism lasted as I walked into The Haunting of Hill House. The adequate trailer for the film let me know that it had a pretty good cast, a beautiful art direction, big special effects, and an original horror classic as a basis (remake of William Castle's The Haunting of Hill House from 1958). I was even more disappointed with Hill House, and I was not even expecting much out of it!
The film tells of what happens when five strangers are brought together as a trick that a millionaire plays on his unloving wife. Steven Price (Rush) hates his wife Evelyn so much that he comes up with a plan that will ruin her birthday party in a large building that he has rented. When those that she wants at the party are thrown out by Steven for a list that he thinks might madden her, a unusual force again changes this list, bringing the five diverse characters together. The first is a television producer (Wilson) with an indifferent feeling that tells you her future is not too bright; a football player that has been thrown off the league (Diggs); a secretary masquerading as her boss (Larter); a doctor seems the most in peace with everything that has to do with the evening (Gallagher); and the man that owns the place and is in deepest fear of what the building might do to him (Kattan). It seems that there is a back story to the place that involves murder, suicide, and unsettled souls. With the visitors in the ex-asylum, those that live in the walls take it upon themselves to overcome them.
I knew there was something wrong with the film when it shows a circa 1940 newsreel with violence, gore, and nudity. The inconsistencies do not end there with the film's awful screenplay. I'd dare say that this is one of the worst written films this year. The direction and special effects are nothing to write home about and the actors are almost all calling in their performances. To be fair there was one thing that I did like about the film: Kattan. His periodical comic relief actually allowed to get some pleasure, no matter how little, out of this film.
If it was not for Kattan, The House on Haunted Hill
might have been vying for the Ed Wood Humanitarian Award at the end of the year (part of
the Golden Brandos).
(Dir: John DeLuise, Starring Peter DeLuise, Jamie Hendrix Colins, Larry Mize, Ron Adams, Emily Carpenter, Victoria Galen, Danny Gilroy, and Lina Summerford Miller
BY: DAVID PERRY
I have spent the larger duration of my life in metropoli and suburbs. Very little of it has been spent in rural areas like the one I presently reside in. I've never really understood the big deal that people make about the countryside, only finding it beautiful in films like Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. That is a predisposition that I had when entering Southern Heart. Not only was it about saving farmland, but also set in the Southeast, an area that I have never known or, to tell the truth, loved too much. Southern Heart supposedly touches the heart of any southerner with rich values and an understanding of life. It may have a good message, but that does not make up for the fact that it is a bad film.
Southern Heart is about Collin Jacobs (DeLuise) who travels to Mentone, Alabama, from New York City to buy-up a large piece of land to use on his father's strip mine business. He arrives in Mentone with a partner that is the official cliché of a cityslicker (Galen). After meeting the locals and spending some time with the fellow (Mize) that is selling the land and his daughter Tommy (Collins), Collin finds himself in love with both the land and Tommy. He must now keep his affection with Tommy and keep her from finding out the real reason that he is buying the land.
This is officially the worst bunch of actors I've ever seen. They are terrible. Each line of dialogue is given with a drawl that would automatically hurt their ability, but they also read off the lines with about as much interest as I had in the film. Lucky for this film that I do not have a worst section in the annual Golden Brando awards because this film would easily run off with worst comedic acting ensemble.
The direction is pretty miserable, as well as the
screenplay. In other words the films is pretty bad.
|The Dinner Game
(Dir: Francis Veber, Starring Jacques Villeret, Thierry Lhermitte, Francis Huster, Alexandra Vandernoot, Daniel Prévost, and Cathernine Frot)
BY: DAVID PERRY
There are many types of comedies that I like. I'm most often commending satires (Bowfinger) and sophisticated comedies (An Ideal Husband), but there is also a side of me that like farces. I'm not referring to self-mocking comedies like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, but of films like those made by Blake Edwards in his heyday. Before Edwards lost the touch (circa 1970), he was making some of the funniest films of the sixties. I have a special place in my heart for The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, and, to a lesser extent, The Party. Of course one might note that those three have one thing in common besides Edwards and Henry Mancini (who did most of the scores for Edwards' film): Peter Sellers. It has been years since I saw a completely Sellers-esque farce. His style of baffoon has never been equalized, not even by Roberto Benigni (who did a terrible job attempting to be Sellers in Son of the Pink Panther). Sellers had a knack for comedy that is probably not going to be found again for years to come. Still there is no reason that Hollywood should completely abandon the genre. The only people that seem to still make that type of film are the French. With their understanding of Jerry Lewis' comedy, they not only know how good farces can be, they make good ones too.
Such is the case with The Dinner Game (Le Dîner de Cons), a film from La Cage aux Folles screenwriter Francis Veber. Veber has had good luck and bad luck in the film industry. Most of his French films have been rather good, but whenever they are remade for American audiences, they turn out rather bad (Fathers' Day, The Man with One Red Shoe). With that in mind, I cannot think of any way that The Dinner Game could work if remade (unless Edwards or Billy Wilder did the adaptation). Of course it is too late to try to keep a remake from happening, Veber has already agreed to directing an English language remake called Dinner for Schmucks. Hopefully if he is directing, he can keep the film from going down the drain (of course that did not save the remake of The Vanishing).
The Dinner Game is about what happens to a man when he finds the person he thinks is perfect for his weekly dinner party. At this party, people bring acquaintances that are idiots, whom they make fun of throughout the evening subtly enough to keep the idiot from figuring out that he is being made fun of. Pierre Brochant (Lhermitte) thinks that he has the perfect idiot for the party, a tax man that spends his spare time making architectural achievements out of matchsticks. François Pignon (Villeret) is that type of idiot that literally has no idea of what he is doing; he's trying to be a good person, it's just that his inability to clearly think keeps his actions from being at all helpful. When Brochant hurts his back and is unable to leave the house to go to the party, he is forced to spend the evening with Pignon. Things would not be so bad if it was not for the fact that Brochant is attempting to find his wife, who has threatened to leave his if he goes on with the cruel plans for the night. As one might expect, the mean Brochant gets his comeuppance from the mistakes made by Pignon.
The film is completely unpredictable, with each impending mishap a surprise. My only problem with the film is that there are many lulls in the comedy. Sure the film is mostly hilarious, but there are parts where many of the jokes fall flat. The biggest laughs were when the film would leave a subject that had become rather old and go onto a fresh subject.
The direction, script, and cinematography (Luciano
Tovoli) are all sufficient. The main thing that makes the thing flow are the two
leads. Villeret is a good choice for the shoes Sellers has left behind, though he is still
no Inspector Clouseau.