Volume 3, Number 37
This Week's Reviews: The Glass House, Jeepers Creepers.
This Week's Omissions: Hardball, Himalaya.
Video Reviews: Saving Silverman, Tomcats.
|The Glass House
(Dir: Daniel Sackheim, Starring Leelee Sobieski, Stellan Skarsgård, Diane Lane, Trevor Morgan, Bruce Dern, Rita Wilson, Michael O'Keefe, Alice Hirson, January Jones, Agnes Bruckner, China Shavers, Kim Webster, Carly Pope, D. Elliot Woods, and Chris Noth)
BY: DAVID PERRY
When The Glass House begins -- with another one of those annoying, misleading movie-in-a-movie gimmicks -- the audience is meant to understand this as a story of domestic bliss broken down into a sudden, painful change. We are introduced to Ruby Baker (Sobieski), her younger brother Rhett (Morgan), and loving parents (O'Keefe and Wilson) -- they live a simple life in their California suburban existence. Everything, however, changes one evening when Ruby comes home only to have police officers inform her of a car accident: her parents are dead.
Ruby and Rhett are now orphans and must turn to their parentally chosen guardians, Terry (Skarsgård) and Erin Glass (Lane). With this, the two move from their comfy living to the cold Malibu home of the Glass family -- a house predominately built with elements of glass. Comfy this place is not -- the two must learn to deal with the higher class eating and living of their guardians and, worse yet, must live in the same room for the time being.
Trailers for The Glass House should have stopped there, but in hopes of ushering in audience members interested in thrills, the people behind the advertisements decided to give away the rest of the film (truthfully, all the way to the last ten minutes of the film). You see -- hopefully you are not reading on if you haven't seen the trailer and do not want to know the twist -- Mr. And Mrs. Glass are not the kind guardians that the Bakers had hopes to leave their kids to. When they made this provision in their will, the Glasses were their neighbors and they were good friends. Evidently a great deal has changed over the course of a year since they moved away.
Terry is a limo service owner, a business venture that has proved to be quite profitable for a while, judging by the luxurious house and shoreline location; Erin is a doctor practicing in rehabilitation for victims. Ah, but here's the rub: Terry's business has taken a turn for the worse and brought in some highly convincing loan collectors and Erin's job has allowed her easy access to drugs including morphine, her drug of choice. Of course, all this is supposed to be inconsequential to the two kids now living in their home, but Terry is all too willing to make them part of the problems.
It's been weird watching Leelee Sobieski grow up on the screen and finally settle into starring roles that are utterly horrible. This is only her third time headlining a film (not counting the TV miniseries Joan of Arc). The first was amazing, unquestionably the role that brought her to the attention for most critics in James Ivory's underrated A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, but the second was in the repugnant Here on Earth (or, as I like to call it, Autumn in New York for those who listen to Backstreet Boys). I love her in the supporting roles she has taken in the past -- including Deep Impact, Never Been Kissed, and Eyes Wide Shut -- so it's torturous to see her make such horrid films showing little talent at every turn.
That's not the case with the film's other shining beacon, the Swedish star and Lars von Trier mainstay Stellan Skarsgård. His calculated turn is what makes this film at least watchable. Sure, his demeanor is never really believable as anything sweet, but that definitely would not be in character. Skarsgård does not hold back the emotions he goes with in the film. I can see the director just telling Skarsgård to act his own way and then setting back and watching Skarsgård's clockwork unwind.
Pulling in forgettable supporting roles are the rarely-seen-but-still-overused Rita Wilson, the annoying child actor Trevor Morgan, the always-horrendous Diane Lane, and the venerable veteran Bruce Dern. I still hold onto a great amount of respect for Bruce Dern even if he has not been in a great film since 1978's Coming Home. It definitely takes a good actor to still bring about good memories after two decades of films like The Big Town, The 'burbs, Down Periscope, Last Man Standing, and The Haunting. This is still an unremarkable performance, but he does bring some respectability to his scenes even if they are as hokey and clichéd as can be imagined.
Screenwriter Wesley Strick sufficiently showed some promise in the thriller genre when he co-wrote Cape Fear ten years ago, but the time since has not been nice to his career with inconceivable work on Wolf, The Saint, and Return to Paradise. Usually, I'd have written him off with The Saint, but I thought he deserved a few more chances -- at this time, he has yet to make a good case for clemency.
Looking at the filmography for director Daniel Sackheim
yields four TV movies and eight TV series. Taking into consideration that this is his
first feature, it is easy to peg why The Glass House ultimately fails in its gaga
attempts to thrill that only lead to laughs. Sackheim has not had a chance to grasp film
magic and can only turn to conventional plot twists and regular story devices. This is
just poor filmmaking, but not necessarily a warning of a horribly future. He's young and
has enough TV clout to make most producers salivate (he has directed shows like The
X-Files, Law & Order, ER, NYPD Blue, and Judging
Amy) -- all he needs is a fine screenwriter and a couple of night classes in film and
he might just show a fine future in the movies. And, hey, maybe Stellan Skarsgård will
even come back to ease him through.
(Dir: Victor Salva, Starring Justin Long, Gina Philips, Jonathan Breck, Patricia Belcher, Eileen Brennan, and Brandon Smith)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Jeepers Creepers opens with two people annoyingly arguing and then persists until the audience feels dulled by bad comedy, boring violence, and asinine story arcs. Jeepers Creepers is not the worst horror film to come out of the woodworks lately, but it is definitely not too far from the bottom.
With an opening that feels like Duel set in the town from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, director Victor Salva sets the stage for another homage-driven, self-referential scare fest leaving all those tired of this subgenre -- myself included -- hoping for an early end. Jeepers Creepers obliges to a point: the film is only 90 minutes in length, but every minute is felt.
The protagonists -- slightly spoiled brother-sister team of Trish (Philips) and Darry (Long) -- drive into rural Minnesota on their way home from college. This is a normal, rather banal, car ride with the two throwing barbs at each other and showing their unquestionable immaturity in full force. After some fun with license plates (and a chance to utter the film's one truly funny line), they find themselves caught in a rather unconventional run-in with a raging old truck on their tail. After he finally passes them, they encounter him pulled off the road unloading corpse-size packs into a sewer tube. They, of course, must investigate -- isn't that the rule of the genre?
After Darry accidentally falls down the tube and finds some rather unsavory packages, the two get to work to figure a way that might save whomever is in trouble, or at least get themselves out of this place. That, of course, is easier said than done -- the driver of that truck seems intent on keeping them there, especially Justin.
Along the way, the film throws in a couple unusual characters -- one good, one bad -- without really taking any time to make sure the audience cares about the two leads. For us, the audience, they are nothing more than lambs for the slaughter and we can just hope that their demise or escape is soon so that the film will come to an end. And those two characters, Eileen Brennan's fun cat lady and Patricia Belcher's annoying clairvoyant, just feel like distractions in the film ultimate journey to an end.
Watching this film is like watching a toned down I Spit on Your Grave -- if, perhaps, you like that camp quality that is, in my opinion, absolutely horrendous to sit through, then the misgivings of Jeepers Creepers might just be up your alley. The film -- despite one funny line, Brennan, and a somewhat refreshing nod to Tobe Hooper at the finale -- feels like a walk through the genre's hallowed hall of trash. Every mistake that can be found in Leprechaun and Wishmaster can also be found here in great detail.
Salva is the director responsible for Powder,
which could possibly be one of the worst dramas made in the 1990's. Within this film, like
Powder, is a disposition of self-worth. Salva tries his best to make it seem like
he knows exactly what he's doing even though the film looks like it was produced by
someone completely cinematically incompetent. Sure, Jeepers Creepers is better
than Powder and Salva's first film Clownhouse, but ultimately it has
nothing to offer. I'm not trying to say that I wanted some infotainment out of this film,
but the least I can ask for is some entertainment.
Video Review: Various connections have made it a little easier for me to get my hands on various films that I skipped earlier in the year. For that reason, I'll review some of the movies that I did not see in the weeks that have passed. This week: Saving Silverman and Tomcats.
Dennis Dugan, Starring Steve Zahn, Jack Black, Jason Biggs, Amanda Peet, Amanda Detmer, R.
Lee Ermey, Neil Diamond, Kyle Gass, Norman Armour, and Chris Logan)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Love stinks: well, at least that's the moral of the story found in two of this spring's least remarkable features. That was also the title of a horrible comedy made in 1999 that most people have forgotten, but that's another story of painful hours at the movie house. Both Saving Silverman and Tomcats attempt to give their protagonists climaxes that emphasize a belief that there is love out there for everyone, but the way they get to this conclusion only leads the audience to believe otherwise.
These two films are just further notches down the ladder on the gross-out comedy food chain. I'll still defend the early works of the Farrelly Brothers, but considering the horrid progeny that their successes have spawned (including a couple films from them since There's Something About Mary, their slapdash masterpiece) I am a little aggravated that their success ever arrived. Saving Silverman and Tomcats are just two films that follow the Farrelly's lead, but they could possibly be the worst two yet.
At the center of Saving Silverman is Darren Silverman (Biggs) and the problems that occur when he leaves his friends and moves on to a woman. She is Judith Fessbeggler (Peet) and her constant mind games and aggressive behavior pushed on dim Darren is rather disturbing for his slob friends Wayne (Zahn) and J.D. (Black), who frighten Judith so much that she makes Darren promise to never see them again. This is, of cours,e tortuous for three friends who have spent decades together and even form a Neil Diamond cover band.
Darren agrees to Judith's request and ends his friendship with Wayne and J.D., who then take matters into their own hands by kidnapping Judith and trying to push Darren into a relationship with high school flame Sandy (Detmer, who's quickly taking up the market for perky supporting female characters). As they try to get this rolling, they find that keeping Judith in their grasp is one tough task.
Saving Silverman is pained by many egregious mistakes, the most painful of which is its lack of any real laughs. There are some really talented people in this film, but none of them get to show any of the magic they have shown in the past. Jack Black was fresh off of two great comedic performances in Jesus' Son and High Fidelity, but takes a huge step back here. The normal rambunctious antics he shows most of the time -- most notably in his Tenacious D series -- seems to have taken some time off as he just plays slob throughout Silverman. It's almost like Black, Steve Zahn, whose list of great performances over the last few years is too long to name, and Amanda Peet entered the film expecting something different and then decided to give the least amount of effort in the roles after the movie took a turn against them.
Equally as unimpressive is Jason Biggs, who really had nothing of note to speak of before the film anyway. Biggs frightens me in some way. It's not that he holds any clout or any weapon that can deter me from something, but that I feel he's going to remain in the business for many more years and continue creating films of such low quality. In my mind, he is the Anthony Michael Hall of the next generation -- and I must remind you that Hall, 10 years after his prime, is still making movies.
Now, after the horrid shenanigans of Saving Silverman comes the even worse Tomcats. Instead of a woman ruining a friendship, it's now a woman courting a man just to get some money and, in the process, just might ruin a friendship for good measure.
The story is set up in Las Vegas at a bachelor's party where a group of friends decide to start a bet -- each one puts in some cash and the last single man (in their minds, the last true man of the bunch) gets the entire pot. Through some fine stock market finagling, the pot has grown to an impressive $50,000. As it is now, only two men stand without a ring and neither of them looks to be on the road to the altar just yet. But a run-in at a casino leaves one of the bachelors, Michael (O'Connell), with a $50,000 debt and thirty days to pay it. With this, he begins plotting to get the other single, Kyle (Busey), to marry any way that is possible.
Kyle often speaks to Michael of the girl that got away -- a little vixen named Natalie (Elizabeth), who he dumped and now regrets it. It turns out the dumping was rather harsh and she hates him: all the more reason for her to want Kyle to lose the money. Michael and Natalie start to get the ball rolling and, as film cliché dictates, they fall for each other.
Tomcats seems to think that placing the most bodily fluids and excised body parts in a film will produce the most laughs, but they are sadly mistaken. This is quite possibly the lowest lowbrow comedy yet and not a crack of a smile in the entire proceedings. I will forever cringe when I see the great actor David Ogden Stiers on screen for now on, not because he delivers a bad performance, but because the film actually puts him through eating a surgically removed testicle.
About a year ago, there was a small commotion over the fact that Tom Green came out with news of having testicular cancer. Immediately, people began accusing him of taking his comedy to an extreme -- Green actually did have cancer, but his comic past did not make this look like a serious statement. Of course, he had his cancerous testicle removed and made it part of a special episode in his MTV series. That episode pushed bad taste as the audience saw the testicle on TV -- did Tomcats writer-director Gregory Poirier seriously think that he needed to one-up Green?
The way this film treats people is offensive to everyone. The women are portrayed as manipulative and sexually loose (because, you know, an old lady in S & M gear is so funny); the men are horny lapdogs. This is quite possibly the first film to make an entire civilization seem backwards -- if an alien species ever caught a transmission of this film in space, I can only wonder what they'd think of us on Earth.
Tomcats is played almost completely to college students with mindsets of grade schoolers. This is one film that thinks its funny just having characters mention something naughty -- then, if they actually act anything out, the audience can cringe further at what digression is involved. Rarely is a film made that so clearly calls for cinematic excommunication of the auteur as in this case -- Gregory Poirier should at least never be allowed behind the camera or a keyboard again.
"There is only one happiness in life: to love and be loved."
Moulin Rouge embraced that George Sand quote
-- Saving Silverman and Tomcats would be happy to spit on it. Saving
Silverman is of a lesser degree, and therefore gets some lenience (plus it includes a
slightly funny cameo from R. Lee Ermey), but the misogyny found in Tomcats is
reprehensible. These two films seem determined to convince male audiences that there are
only a handful of harmless ladies out there and that they should wait it out -- preferably
sitting on a dirty couch, eating chips, drinking beer, and watching wrestling -- and hope
that one day that saint will walk into their lives. In the meantime, these poor slobs can
continue taking heed of these films' words of wisdom.