> Volume 4 > Number 25

Volume 4, Number 25

This Week's Reviews:  Minority Report.

This Week's Omissions:  Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, Lilo & Stitch.

Repertory Review:  The Graduate.

Capsule Reviews:  Deuces Wild, Juwanna Mann.

Steven Spielberg

Tom Cruise
Colin Farrell
Max von Sydow
Samantha Morton
Neal McDonough
Steve Harris
Kathryn Morris
Daniel London
Michael Dickman
Matthew Dickman
Lois Smith
Mike Binder
Tim Blake Nelson
Peter Stormare




A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Spielberg, 2001

Eyes Wide Shut
Kubrick, 1999

Fahrenheit 451
Truffaut, 1966

Fleder, 2002

Thomas in Love
Renders, 2001

Minority Report


Philip K. Dick’s novella Minority Report may not be the author’s more renowned story, but it is certainly his most unnerving. I like Philip K. Dick’s writings, first finding them only a few years ago when searching for some simple audio book for a long commute I often make. Dick’s stories are often akin to a fan boy excitement, proudly imagining scientific advances while remaining unquestionably grounded by current socio-political problems.

Steven Spielberg’s realization of Dick’s Minority Report sticks to much of this, using the director’s highly visible politics while dropping all but the bare bones of the original. While most of the character names and their relationships to each other remain the same, the dynamics of these actions between each other have been slightly changed. The military magnate of Leo Crow has been turned into a slovenly everyman. When protagonist John Anderton (Cruise) speaks of not knowing who this man is, it does not seem as odd as in the original.

Anderton, you see, has been accused of the future killing of Crow. Set in 2054, the agency Anderton works for is in charge of stopping these crimes from happening -- effectively leaving the district attorney’s job to clairvoyants. At the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Department of Pre-Crime, Anderton is a top detective, effectively running his squad into homes of soon-to-be murderers and setting up the footing for a national Department of Pre-Crime. No one his been murdered in D.C. in 6 years; Anderton and Department Director Lamar Burgess (von Sydow) want to allow this statistic to occur around the country.

The system works because Burgess and former associate Dr. Iris Hineman (Smith) happened upon three waif children who had nightmares of murders that were about to happen. Burgess became obsessed with using this information to end the burgeoning crime rates, building a computer that could read the minds of Agatha (Morton) and twins Dashiell and Arthur (Michael and Matthew Dickman), a trio called pre-cogs, and then send a troupe of policemen to arrest the assailant before anyone dies.

And then John receives the latest file from the pre-cogs with all the information on the upcoming murder of Leo Crow, perpetrated by John Anderton. With his own men and the possibly corrupt Detective Ed Witwer, visiting as an envoy for the attorney general, after him, John must get through the world of 2054 Washington as jet-packed cops (who look eerily like François Truffaut’s firemen in Fahrenheit 451) and retinal identifiers make his escape seem impossible.

Minority Report may be Spielberg’s darkest film, an intriguing homage to Stanley Kubrick and the distant aloofness of Barry Lyndon or The Shining (Spielberg even makes an obvious reference to the eye clamps in A Clockwork Orange). A.I.: Artificial Intelligence may turn out to be the misunderstood classic of this modern period, a Citizen Kane for the twenty-first century. A year later, people still refer to the film as Spielberg’s folly (ahem, Hook), an amalgam of magnificent visuals and diarrheic storytelling. I liked the film -- strike that, I loved the film; and that much chagrined finale his grown on me exponentially. By the end of 2001, it had moved into my top five for the year.

Minority Report does not bring that same level of enthusiasm, even though it could be said that it does fulfill the needs of magnificent visuals and diarrheic storytelling. Their origins are similar -- both films come from sci-fi novellas with major adjustments that have occurred over decades of preparation -- and the two looks remind the audience of the way Spielberg’s repertory crew have come to work in similar, top notch detail.

Spielberg assembles an immense crew (the Internet Movie Database reports 125 crewmembers in the art direction department alone) that includes some of the finest technicians in modern film. Editor Michael Kahn gets to do gangbusters with his work on an action film, something that he rarely gets to enjoy when working with Spielberg; his moody blues keeps the film running briskly without turning it into a mindless mess. He also deserves some credit for melding the special effects (289 crewmembers) with the live action seamlessly.

However, of the thousands of people who worked on this film, the name which deserves the most credit for turning Minority Report into something to be reservedly excited about is cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. The expert DP has been a major factor in all of his work with Spielberg, using everything from soft light to high-speed film stock to get the needed visceral reaction. Their terrific cooperation is best seen in a single shot showing John holding Agatha against him. The shot is a relatively easy to imagine one -- a side view of two people in an embrace. But the direct lighting on each face with a lack of fill lighting gives the moment an astonishing otherworldly look. Kaminski’s fine work is not just regulated to this shot, though, giving the film a continuous gray look that intensifies the authoritarian milieu.

Tom Cruise does a relatively good job in the role, though most of his finest scenes rely on the superior work of some of his costars, including Morton (echoing Kubrick’s star child in the form of a heroin addict) and von Sydow. This is not a film that generally showcases its actors (like A.I. was), but most of the performers still come out well. And Cruise even gets to show a far better befuddled escaper than he did in Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky.

The conundrum that the film tackles -- if the future is known and therefore changeable on the whim of those in the know, does it really remain the future -- serves the film as well as it did the original story. Though Spielberg’s vision lacks the magnitude of the term ‘minority report’ and gets lost in a poorly structured series of finales, his melancholy dreamscape serves as one of the few truly intelligent action films to come out recently. Dick may have written a different story for his pre-crime idea, but something tells me he’d be still supportive of what Spielberg has done.

Mike Nichols

Dustin Hoffman
Anne Bancroft
Katherine Ross
William Daniels
Murray Hamilton
Elizabeth Wilson
Brian Avery
Walter Brooke
Norman Fell
Alice Ghostley
Buck Henry
Richard Dreyfuss




Almost Famous
Crowe, 2000

American Beauty
Mendes, 1999

American Pie
Weitz, 1999

Heckerling, 2000

Wonder Boys
Hanson, 2000

The Graduate


Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) was a normal college graduate when he came home for his last vacation from school. His parents throw a nice bash in his honor and everyone wants to know his plans for the future. But the problem is that Benjamin, like most people when they get out of college, does not know what he wants to do with his life.

The Graduate was so well received in 1967 and still today because it taps into the feelings, doubts, and fears of all youths as they get out of college. Unless there's already a job waiting for them, they are usually left to imagine that they may never become the successes the college was supposed to meld them into. I saw The Graduate once before I entered college. And, I must admit, I did not get it. I mean, I understood that technically it was an incredibly impressive film, but I thought that it lacked something. I suppose I was about 10 or 11 then, and I seriously thought that I was on my way to follow my dream (which was to become a lawyer, believe it or not). My second viewing was when I was a sophomore in college and it really hit a chord. I was not on the exact same leaf as Benjamin, but I did feel torn in the same way that he did.

Another reason that the film still stands tall is that the story given amidst all this is engaging. Benjamin gets an opening for a small affair and takes it, next thing he knows, there's something in his life and this past mistake means that his chance at true happiness may be impossible.

The affair is between him and Mrs. Robinson (Bancroft), the wife of his father's business partner. He does not really feel right doing it, but for some reason, his need for this makes him fair game for the affair. This of course, must come to an end sooner or later, and it does. He is glad to have the matter off his shoulder, but Mrs. Robinson does not take it well. The main reason that the end of their sexual meetings is so aggravating to her is that Benjamin's new belle is her daughter Elaine (Ross) as part of a long intended son-daughter pairing between the two business partners.

The Graduate is funny and appealing. Recently I read that Roger Ebert has retracted a great deal of what he said about the film in 1967, which he heralded then. He now thinks that the characters seem too domineering or naïve and that the song score by Simon and Garfunkle is annoying. This couldn't be any further from my opinion. With each viewing I have of the film, I get the impression that it is better than I have ever given it credit before. I'm sure that there is a certain age group that the film plays best to, but even when beyond the age group, it still has a massive appeal in its story and performances.

Dustin Hoffman gives his first and most memorable performance. I know that Hoffman is still making films, but I seriously doubt that he will ever do anything that will be as defining quite like his Benjamin of The Graduate and his Raymond of Rain Man have been. Hoffman is so believable as Benjamin that it is almost depressing just to see him go into the rut that occurs in the film's third act. Hoffman sells the character better than most first-time actors. Though not his best early performance -- I personally have more respect for his much more caustic Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy and Lenny Bruce in Lenny -- Hoffman shines so majestically that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing Benjamin.

And in the antithesis to Benjamin's naïveté is Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson. I have never liked the actress to a great degree -- I find her often times cloying beyond comprehension, but I do feel that she actually shows something in this film. Bancroft is believable in her role, in the same way that Hoffman is. Though their ages really are not that far away (Bancroft was actually only five years older than Hoffman), Bancroft creates the persona of a weary housewife in her 50's perfectly. From the way she holds herself, it is not hard to believe that she is able to seduce the incredibly malleable Benjamin so easily.

As people often mention this film, the main references go to the actors, but something should definitely also be said for Mike Nichols' direction. Nichols, like Sydney Pollack with They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, showed promise for a very dark and disturbing oeuvre based on his work for this film, but never really worked with films in the same way. While Nichols is still certainly a fine director (though, his last effort was the dismally bad What Planet are You From?), he stopped working in the sullen tones of his early years as he aged. I have high regard for those early attempts, including The Day of the Dolphin and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but his later films are always so happy that it's hard to believe they are from the same man that once made Carnal Knowledge.

The last act of The Graduate is especially impressive for Nichols' direction. He makes the audience feel the deep depression of Benjamin through nearly every facet of his style. This style also works perfectly with the score by Simon and Garfunkle, the editing by Sam O'Steen, and he cinematography by Robert Surtees. In this last half hour of the film, working up to the film's terrifically rushed finale, Nichols et al. creates more than just a movie for the ages, but a modern reality show, where everything seem to deluge our beloved protagonist and his worry that he cannot regain what he has lost.

The Graduate is so much more than just a movie, it is a cinematic statement. Joining Woodstock and the Doors and the Vietnam War, The Graduate captured everything that threatened a generation in the most domestic of settings. What makes the film even more remarkable, though, is that its statements of dread and depression still hold true for that generation's offspring.

Capsule Reviews: Since things are backlogged and there happens to be two spots in this week's lineup, I have decided to use capsule reviews for Deuces Wild and Juwanna Mann (plus, they were not viewed in a theatre).  Though, as I said in the last capsule review column, these would be better suited if they were called "Flippant Remarks."

Deuces Wild

(Dir: Scott Kalvert, Starring Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk, Norman Reedus, Max Perlich, Drea de Matteo, Vincent Pastore, Frankie Muniz, Balthazar Getty, Nancy Cassaro, Matt Dillon, Deborah Harry, James Franco, and Josh Leonard)



Deuces Wild -- too tame to be The Warriors, too ugly to be West Side Story -- has to be the year's most abrasively horrendous movie. The story of gang wars in Brooklyn plays like the work of Long Island's Tourism Board, weaving around the same six blocks to show the way it engulfs its residents. Basketball Diaries director Scott Kalvert infuses the movie with a terrific macho pulp style, but the screenplay turns out muzzling the barks that Kalvert seems to desperately want to amplify.

Juwanna Mann

(Dir: Jesse Vaughan, Starring Miguel A. Núñez, Jr., Vivica A. Fox, Kevin Pollak, Tommy Davidson, Ginuwine, and Kim Wayans)



Juwanna Mann, a marriage between Air Bud and Sorority Boys, could be the year's most cliché-riddled, predictable, unfunny, and boring urban comedies this year. Packing as many bad actors into one film (with the exception of the slacking Kevin Pollack), director Jesse Vaughan proves to be one of most inept directors to release a film this year, framing every shot as if he was still working on his Paula Abdul documentary from a decade ago. 90% of the jokes in the film were used in Sorority Boys earlier this year; considering that most of the jokes in that film were stale by the time that film used them, nearly every attempt at humor here is DOA.




Reviews by:
David Perry