Volume 1, Number 38
|Light It Up
(Dir: Craig Bolotin, Starring Usher Raymond, Forest Whitaker, Robert Ri'chard, Rosario Dawson, Venessa L. Williams, Clifton Collins, Jr., Fredro Starr, Sara Gilbert, Judd Nelson, Vic Polizos, and Glynn Turman)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Once again the wrath of the urban oppression film. I've seen this story way too many times, and it kills me just how often the story is set in a high school. Stand and Deliver, Music of the Heart, Lean on Me, anyone?
These stories can work sometimes (like the rather enjoyable Lean on Me), but for that to happen, it must seem original. Light It Up has taken so much from the recent film The Negotiator, cramming it into the Dangerous Minds mentality, that the whole film seems hackneyed. Not once did I feel that I was in anything near suspense. Everything was inadvertently mapped out in the prologue (though it takes a very good eye to catch half the foreshadowing, a virtue and a debit that comes after seeing so many films with twists over a lifetime). The narration, the setting, the acting, everything seems familiar, because everything has been done a million times before.
The film is about the events that occur when a group of students take their school hostage. Not really everyone in the school, just the security guard (Whitaker) and the building. They are not trouble makers, gang members (with the exception of one), they are the students that the teachers like: the sportsman (Raymond), the quiet artist (Ri'chard), the A-list student (Dawson). And just for diversity there are the gang member (Starr), the pregnant loner girl (Gilbert), and the drug dealer (Collins, Jr.). They were provoked when the security guard begins to get rather impersonal with Ziggy, the quiet one, after the suspension of him and fellow students for standing up against the dismissal of their favorite teacher (Nelson).
Much of the film is a mess, little of it making any sense
at all. The acting is horrendous, with the notable exception of Whitaker.
Raymond gives one of the worst dramatic performances this year (and we must remember that
there was always Casper Van Dien in The Omega Code). The direction and
script both seem rather pushy, with crazy scenarios that are as incomprehensible as
persistently poking one's self in the head with a pencil. I'd dare say that Light
It Up is in the ranking for a contender for my bottom ten this year.
|Pokémon the First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back
(Dir: Takeshi Shudo and Norman J. Grossfeld, Voices include Veronica Taylor, Racheal Lillis, Eric Stuart, Ikue Ootani, Philip Bartlett, and Addie Blaustein)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I think that it would be best that I let it be known that I saw this film with pretty much no prior knowledge of what the Japanese children's program Pokémon was about. I've never seen an episode, nor have I even read anything on it. So I entered the theatre with someone that had seen two episodes and could tell me what I lacked. What I lacked in knowledge about the show, seemed to be unimportant. I failed to think about the fact that the show was aimed a young viewing audience in which long lasting story lines would fail to be grasped.
Anyway, with that said, the film itself is nothing special. I must admit that I thought I would hate it when I went in, but I did not think it was that bad. It was not a good film, or even an OK film, by any stretch of the imagination. It was just there. Nothing really that bad, but nothing really that good either.
The film is about three friends that are skilled trainers of pokémons, small mutated animal creatures that fight in small battles. Some pokémons are big and mean, but those that are owned by the three protagonists are tiny and nice. Their size and disposition do not hurt them on the battlefield, though, as is proven early in the film when the leader Ash Ketchum (Taylor) has his pokémons do battle with much larger evil-looking pokémons. Ash, Misty (Lillis), and Brock (Stuart) are invited to go to a big convention of the world's best trainers. What they do not know is that the person hosting the convention and subsequent battle is Mewtwo, a lab produced pokémon that can do more than any pokémon ever could. He thinks, speaks, and has even come up with a process of cloning other pokémons to make them stronger and faster. Ash and friends now must do battle with Mewtwo and his army of pokémons.
I must admit that the film looks good. I've never really gotten into Japanese animation, but I have always commended it for its good looking visuals. The script is nothing to write home about as one would expect, and the film never really moves beyond eye-candy mode. For small children, the film is surely a blast, but for the well-meaning adult, it is rather repetitive and boring. The thing that most irked me was a terrible twenty-two minute opening short called "Pikachu's Vacation" in which all the dialogue is "umpa"s and "ger-rump"s, not to mention the phrase "pika-pikachu" used at least forty times.
Visually speaking, Pokémon the First Movie:
Mewtwo Strikes Back looked good, but as a story it was pretty bad.
|The World Is Not Enough
(Dir: Michael Apted, Starring Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Denise Richards, Robert Carlyle, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Samantha Bond, Desmond Llewelyn, and John Cleese)
BY: DAVID PERRY
I must admit that I am one of the generation that grew up on James Bond films. When I got into the series, Roger Moore was in his hey-day (I still think that Moore was the better Bond), and the Connery films (as well as the George Lazenby solo try On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the best Bond film ever) were being broadcast on television and coming out on video. By the time Moore was gone and Timothy Dalton came in, I was quite the fan. Then came the horrendous 1989 film Licence to Kill. The film was rather well received by critics and fans, but for me it brought Bond to an all-time low, quite an achievement after Moonraker. There would not be another Bond film for six years, and to tell the truth, I did not care. The whole image of a modern Bond was tarnished. I had low expectations for GoldenEye, the first Bond film for Pierce Brosnan, and I found my expectations to ring true. Tomorrow Never Dies was at least pleasant to watch. I found it to be fun, a part of the Moore series that I always thought GoldenEye, Licence to Kill, and Never Say Never Again lacked. At last a mediocre Bond film, the first recommendation for the series since 1987 (notice that once producer Albert R. Broccoli ran out of Ian Fleming novels to adapt, the series hit a lull).
Now there is The World Is Not Enough, a minor position for the series, and, thankfully, the supposed final film for Pierce Brosnan in the superspy character.
The film is about Bond in search of Renard (Carlyle), a great assassin with a certain extra special endowment. It seems that a bullet is lodged in his medulla oblongata, causing him to be impervious to pain and unbelievably strong, as well as fatally wounded. Renard knows that his time is short and begins a plan to a large scale attack on the oil pipes being built across the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. Enter Elektra King (Marceau), the daughter of a recently killed oil magnate, the owner of one of the pipelines, and a recent hostage taken by Renard. With her life on the line, Bond sets out to be her bodyguard with the help of old friend/enemy Valentin (Coltrane), a highly grumpy M (Dench), and a voluptuous Dr. Christmas Jones (Richards).
The series needs a dose of adrenaline and this film does not deliver it. The only action scene in the entire film that really works is the chase scene at the beginning. Other than that, the film is rather boring. None of the actors come out spotless with the exception of Carlyle, who I thought shined in a uniquely devilish performance. Even the normally funny John Cleese fails in the film, playing the new replacement for MI6 inventor Q (Llewelyn). The best character from GoldenEye, Valentin, is wasted in this film, left with hideously bad one-liners. The script could be a nominee for the worst of the series (I've never seen an audience more perplexed by a bad joke like that brought by the "and some sour cream" line in this film).
What is really sad is that the moment in the film that
most intrigued me was when I first spotted, for a quick moment, the great Danish actor
Ulrich Thomsen of The Celebration (Festen) fame.
(Dir: Tim Burton, Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Ray Park, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Jeffrey Jones, Marc Pickering, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Lisa Marie, Casper Van Dien, Michael Gough, and Christopher Lee)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Tim Burton and I seem to have a really nice arrangement. He keeps on making dark, disturbing little films, and I keep on recommending them. The only time that I have ever gone against a Burton film was his last effort, Mars Attacks! His first Batman film stood as the best summer blockbuster up until Jurassic Park (a supposedly mindless film that I still like); his Beetlejuice has become the divine standard for comical horror films; his Edward Scissorhands is, without a doubt, the best (and most depressing) drama/quasi-horror film ever made; and his Ed Wood is the perfect film biography, still unseated as the best of Hollywood bios on Hollywood icons. The fact of the matter is that, with the exception of Mars Attacks!, Burton is one of the best horror directors to ever come out of the United States. He is the American equivalent to Clive Barker, a horror director that knows his horror films so well that he could easily just make a career of doing documentaries.
Such is the case with Sleepy Hollow, a knowing horror film that rarely pulls the stops, veering from scares to actually tell a story. Somewhat loosely based on the age old Washington Irving story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the film is about the search for the murderer of people in a small town in upstate New York named Sleepy Hollow. New York City constable Ichabod Crane (Depp) is sent to the town to investigate, as a way to get him out of the hairs of local police commissioners and judges. Crane is highly skeptical of the agreed upon murderer by the town's fathers, the ghost of a Hessian soldier devoid of a head. This headless horseman (Park) is on the loose chopping off heads, but Crane attests that the culprit is a "man of flesh and blood" and he sets out to get him. Not until he sees the Horseman murder firsthand does Crane believe in this supernatural being. Helping him in his quest to stop the horseman are the son of a recent victim (Pickering), the wealthiest man in the town (Gambon), his daughter (Ricci), and a group of rather secretive town fathers (Gough, Jones, McDiarmid, Griffiths).
The film works for the most part, with Burton hitting the mark in the direction department. The script is rather well done, understandable considering that it is from Se7en scribe Andrew Kevin Walker. The actors are hit and miss. Depp gives a rather splendid performance, as well as Ricci. I thought that most of the supporting players worked well, especially Gambon, Gough, McDiarmid, and Jones. Of course there was also young Pickering and poor Van Dien ruining their scenes, and even the normally enjoyable Richardson came off overacting. Another actor I thoroughly enjoyed was the man that played the Horseman when he has his head in the back story about thirty minutes into the film. All the press material, as well as the opening credits keep from giving away his name, so I shall show him the same respect (I will however point out that Ray Park plays the Horseman post decapitation, an actor best known for recently playing Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace).
But I must point out that the film does have its share of
flaws. It runs a little longer than it should, seeming much longer than two hours.
Also the whole ending is disappointing, not necessarily the ending, but the whole
"twist" (trust me, I'm not giving anything away) climax. Burton seems to
be trying his best, but he just has too much packed into a film, with an insufficient