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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Disappointing adaptation, 4 July 2011

I haven't read enough of Robert Littell's novels to know if he's the American version of Frederick Forsyth, Graham Greene, or my personal favorite, John le Carre, but I've liked the novels of his I've read, and one day, I hope someone makes a good adaptation of one of them. THE AMATEUR, filmed in 1981, was faithful to the plot of the novel for the most part, but was done in a plodding, mechanical style and further hampered by a one-note performance by John Savage in the lead role; only Christopher Plummer's wry turn as the head of the Czech Secret Service (he also poses as a professor) was worth watching. This made-for-TNT miniseries isn't as bad as THE AMATEUR, but it also falls short of the novel.

Littell's novel was an epic roman a clef about the history of the CIA, with the usual blending of factual and fictional characters, and while it traveled well-worn territory (and not quite as substantial in that regard as le Carre's novels are), it's still an entertaining read. Obviously, when filming a long novel, even for a miniseries like this, some things have to go, but it's disappointing when great material is here, and the adapters (director Mikael Solomon and writer Ken Nolan) don't bring it to life on screen.

Part of the problem is it seems like a greatest-hits version of the novel. You get the various incidents, like the Hungary uprising in 1956, and the Bay of Pigs, but there's no flow to the story. Solomon and Littell also cut out the humor of the novel - the character of Yevgeny, the Russian agent, for example, has a great fatalism about him (in the book, when asked what one of the principles of Marxism (I think) is, he replies, "A spy in hand is worth two in the bush?"), and Rory Cochrane could have played it as such, yet he does absolutely nothing with the part (he's certainly capable of it, so I'd like to think it's not his fault). Also a lot of the subplots are given to the character of Jack MacAuliffe, and Chris O'Donnell simply isn't equipped to handle them all. Speaking of O'Donnell, another problem is while the scope of the story is for 40 years, none of the characters really age, with the possible exception of Alfred Molina (as Harvey, code-named "The Sorcerer") and Michael Keaton (as real-life deputy director of counter-intelligence James Angleton). O'Donnell just looks like O'Donnell with a gray wig. The only actors who make much of an impression are Molina and Keaton. Overall, "The Company", while not terrible, definitely could have been a lot better.

169 out of 190 people found the following review useful:
Crowe knows what it is love some little piece of music so much that it hurts, 5 October 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's a (by now) well-known scene early on in ALMOST FAMOUS when William Miller is poring through the records his older sister Anita has left behind for him since she ran off from home. Inside the album cover of The Who's TOMMY, she leaves William a note, telling him to listen to this with a candle lit, and he'll be able to see his future. He puts on the record, "Sparks" comes on, and the look on his face as he listens is the look every rock fan will recognize.

There's been tons of stuff written about rock-n-roll music, from those who think, like William's mother Elaine, that it's a corrupting influence(or those who go even farther and consider it "the devil's music"), to those who insist the music is meaningless and to take it seriously smacks of pretension, because it's "only music." And then there are people like Cameron Crowe, who recognize rock-n-roll, and the music which came in its wake, is the shared experience of many people starting from the 1950's, in the way maybe that plays and earlier types of music were in centuries before. Sure, there's television and movies as well, but rock music is shorter and more direct. And sure, it can just be fun and a way to cut loose once in a while, but it's also something which can speak to what we love, what we long for, what we're afraid of, what we think, what wounds us inside, and so much more.

Because Crowe is a fan, he's able to capture all of this in his movie. It's not just in the obvious moments, like the people on the tour bus singing along to Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," which lifts them out of their black mood, or singer Jeff Bebe leading everybody into singing "On the Cover of Rolling Stone" when he learns he and his fellow bandmates will be on the cover. It's in the wild spirit of people like Sapphire, one of the Band-Aids(read: groupies) who follow the band Stillwater and others as they tour the U.S., or in the more tender spirit of someone like her sister Band-Aid Penny Lane, who believes she and the other Band-Aids serve as a muse to bands like Stillwater, and who soaks in all of her experiences like a sponge. It's also in William, who tries(like Crowe did) to balance reporting with his very obvious love for the music. And it's especially in the line I quoted from at the top, which Sapphire says to Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond late in the movie. To be sure, the road of rock-n-roll isn't all covered in roses. There's outrageous behavior(like how Russell treats Penny, or William losing his virginity to three of the groupies), drugs, excess, and yes, pretension(like when Jeff lectures Penny about the power of rock-n-roll and then adds, "And the chicks are cool, right?" But those who wanted this to be more like THIS IS SPINAL TAP are missing the point. This isn't a movie about the obvious problems and silliness in rock music. It's about what still draws people to it, and though Crowe acknowledges these people's faults, he still loves them for who they are.

Of course, there's a lot more reasons why ALMOST FAMOUS is a great movie besides its love of rock-n-roll. It's well acted across the board(in addition to all the performances mentioned several times, I'd like to highlight Fairuza Balk as Sapphire; not only does she get the best line in the movie(along with Frances McDormand's "Don't take drugs!" and "Rock stars have kidnapped my son") with that line about music(I also like what she and the other groupies yell as they're about to deflower William, "Death to Opie!"), but she also captures the carefree spirit of the time. She may not be important plot wise, but if you took her character out, the movie would be missing something), it's a terrific coming-of-age story, it's a bittersweet love story, the dialogue is great, and it looks terrific. But it's Crowe's obvious love for the music, and for the people who love it, that makes ALMOST FAMOUS the best thing I've seen so far this year.

X-Men (2000)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Very good comic book movie, 17 July 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the never-ending debates about popular culture is whether it reflects the times or dictates them. I tend toward the former view, and comic books are no exceptions to this rule. Batman and Superman, the popular comic book heroes of the 30's and 40's, came during the Depression and WWII, where people wanted larger-than-life heroes to look up to. Whereas in the 60's and 70's, when society was becoming ripped apart and people were feeling confused and didn't trust society, comic book heroes like Spiderman and The Fantastic Four, who had as many everyday problems as they did evil ones, were the popular heroes. Square in that tradition are the X-Men.

I was only a casual reader of the comics when I grew up; it was more the excellent animated series of several years back I became a fan of. It was on late at night, and the times shifted around so I couldn't always watch, but I enjoyed watching the adventures of Professor X, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, and the others, and how they struggled to find their place in the world and to help other mutants do the same. Now, director Bryan Singer and a host of writers(in addition to credited writers Singer, Tom DeSanto, and David Hayter, writers including John Logan, Christopher McQuarrie, Ed Solomon, and Joss Whedon took a whack at it) have delivered their version of X-MEN, and I'm pleased to say it delivers.

One of the reasons it works is Singer, his usual director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel, and production designer John Myhre eschew the usual look of comic book films. Even though this is set in the future(the "near future"), everything looks close to like it is today(except, of course, Magneto's hideout and Professor Xavier's school). This emphasizes even more the alienation mutants feel from society. And while there are visual effects used in both the battles and when the X-Men show their stuff(especially Mystique), they don't come at the expense of the story, but serve it.

Some have complained the film is overly serious, as if being a comic book automatically meant it wasn't worth taking seriously. Yes, Singer is making parallels to bigotry today, with some direct antecedents(the anti-mutant Senator Robert Kelly is clearly modeled on Joe McCarthy, Magneto is a Holocaust survivor, and he quotes Malcolm X near the end - "by any means necessary" - which also suggests Professor Xavier is parallel to Martin Luther King), but they're handled well, and not overplayed. It's also refreshing to see how little melodrama creeps in(SPOILER ALERT: When Professor Xavier becomes bedridden and the rest of the X-Men must carry on without him, it's good to see he doesn't suddenly come back just in time to save the day. END SPOILER ALERT). And to those who suggest the movie is without humor, there are jokes both visual(I don't know the characters, but at the school, one boy makes a fireball, and another sneaks up behind him and turns it into ice. Also, Wolverine's version of flipping someone the bird) and through dialogue(when Wolverine puts down the costumes everyone's wearing, Cyclops shoots back, "Would you prefer yellow spandex?").

One criticism of comic book movies has generally been that they spend too much time trying to explain things to people who don't know anything about them, all at the expense of the story. That's certainly a valid point, but the stories of Wolverine and Rogue(though admittedly hers is supposedly changed radically from the source) are a good way of getting into the story, and Magneto's short past is necessary to show while he is a villain, he's not your standard one. And the stories of Wolverine and Rogue provide an emotional counterpoint to the information disseminated about the X-Men(the fact that Patrick Stewart is handling the exposition keeps these scenes from bogging down).

Which leads to the performances. In order for this to work, you need actors with tremendous presence and authority to play Professor Xavier and Magneto, and someone who can fully handle the complexity of Wolverine, and this is where the film truly scores. Stewart and Ian McKellen are terrific in their roles, both resisting the urge to camp it up(the fact that they sound alike also illustrates how the characters are two sides of the same coin), and especially play well together. And while I had wanted Russell Crowe(the first name mentioned during casting talks) for Wolverine, newcomer Hugh Jackman does quite well, capturing all the feelings Wolverine feels, plus having a great physical presence. And he also does a great job working with all the other actors, and acting with his face(SPOILER ALERT: especially in the scene when he rescues Rogue near the end. END SPOILER ALERT)

The rest of the cast is more of a mixed bag. On the minus side, Tyler Mane has very little to do as Sabretooth, though Magneto and Mystique are the main villains here anyway. Halle Berry has a great physical presence as Storm, her battle scenes come off well, and she's quietly powerful in her one dramatic scene with Senator Kelly, but her African accent(Storm, of course, lived there much of her life) is wayward, and she gets stuck with some awkward dialogue(her scene with Wolverine). And while James Marsden is appropriately cocky as Cyclops, and spars well with Wolverine, isn't quite convincing as a leader, in his one dramatic scene(with Professor Xavier), he's wooden rather than moving, and he and Jean Gray don't have much chemistry(in fairness, that was probably among the footage cut out after previews). On the plus side, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos only has one line of dialogue, but she's quite a presence as Mystique; she's a visual effect all to herself. And unlike the tiresome face-swapping of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2, her shape-shifting never becomes tiresome, because it's always used right, for terror or a joke. Ray Park also makes a good presence as Toad, and contributes some humor as well. Bruce Davison doesn't overplay as Kelly, but brings the right amount of edge. Famke Jannsen brings quiet strength to Jean Gray, and her scenes with Wolverine sparkle(especially when she looks into his mind). Finally, while some have complained that Rogue is too passive a character, I would argue it's appropriate for this conception; she doesn't use her power in fights because she hasn't learned to control it, and is afraid to use it. And Anna Paquin captures this emotional confusion well, especially with her scenes with Wolverine(along with McKellen and Stewart, Jackman and Paquin are the best pair in the film).

Overall, this was quite a good effort, and while I'm normally leery of sequels, the same people are back for the second film, so I'm looking forward to it.

Gladiator (2000)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining epic, 8 May 2000

I can't say I'm a real big fan of what is known as the "sword and sandal" genre. Admittedly, I haven't seen too many of these medieval epics, but I can only think of two I liked(not counting Monty Python's LIFE OF BRIAN, which spoofed the genre); BEN-HUR and SPARTACUS. The former, despite an annoying lead performance by Charlton Heston, had taste and craftsmanship, the latter, despite a somewhat one-note performance by Kirk Douglas, had irony and intelligence. The others all seemed melodramatic. But Ridley Scott's new film shows there's life in this genre yet.

Admittedly, the film does suffer in comparison in one respect; Scott seems less comfortable with the talking scenes and the backroom politics, as it were, than, say, Stanley Kubrick was in SPARTACUS. All the scenes with Charles Laughton, Laurence Olivier, and Peter Ustinov were, in that film, equally as compelling as the battle scenes. Whereas in Scott's film, while he's cast some good actors like Joaquim Phoenix, Connie Nielson, and Derek Jacobi, and they respond with good performances(in particular, Phoenix, an underrated actor, and not the obvious choice as the bad guy), you can sense his need to get back to the action.

Fortunately, the action is all well done; while it's clear Scott is trying to have it both ways(make entertaining spectacle which comments on the need for entertaining spectacle), he stages it so well we don't tend to worry about that. Also, he's helped mightily by the casting of Russell Crowe in the lead role. Crowe couldn't play a false note if he tried, and he brings a lot to a pretty standard action hero here. As with THE INSIDER, he's playing another person who takes a stand he didn't think he had to, and he leads by example, rather than bluster. Overall, while I'm not a big fan of the genre, this is a fine example of it.

U-571 (2000)
1 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Nothing new, but still good, 25 April 2000

Three years ago, Jonathan Mostow made a neat little thriller called BREAKDOWN, and while there was nothing in it we hadn't seen before, it was still good. Now he turns the same trick with this movie. True, it's not a classic like DAS BOOT was, but if we said that about every movie("well, it's no..."), we'd have no movies. I was caught up with most of it, and I enjoyed it. Also, I liked Matthew McConaughey, who proved once again he's a better actor than given credit for, even when he's not using his trademark grin and charm. Except for Harvey Keitel and Jack Noseworthy(who was also in BREAKDOWN), the rest of the cast wasn't distinctive, but they were good.

Now to answer some of the criticism of this movie I've read: (1) It's not just that this is a fictional story and not fact, it's that the Enigma is a McGuffin; just something to get the plot rolling. The real story is the crew trying to survive on the enemy submarine and McConaughey's character learning if he has what it takes to be a captain. If we found out the characters were also supposed to be able to use the Enigma as well, that would have been a problem, but all they're doing is taking it. (2) If I remember correctly, and it could be I'm not, the German captain who orders his gunman to shoot the survivors on lifeboats says those are his orders from "the Fuehrer." Of course, that's no excuse(given that following orders was the defense for My Lai), but we weren't meant to think, "Oh, these German bad guys" because of this scene, especially since they didn't look particularly happy about it.

On the other hand, I do agree one torpedo blowing up a destroyer was a little ludicrous. But it does seem to me a lot of comments which nit-pick films like this are by people who go in not caring if the movie works as a whole, but who have to be satisfied about every little detail in the movie, and go through it as if they were studying something under a microscope. People like that, in my humble opinion, need to get a life.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Biting yet chilling satire, 20 April 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


I first read Ellis' novel a year ago. While much of it was overwritten, particularly the gore parts, within it was a biting yet chilling satire, from the concentration of what Patrick wore to what he listened to(the record reviews, written with the same depth as one might expect a review of The Who's TOMMY would have, are hysterical), which exposed an entire empty sub-culture. I'm glad director and co-writer(with Guinevere Turner, who also plays one of Patrick's victims) Mary Harron found that satire in her film, while playing down the gore(though the murders still retain their kick). One could argue some of it is so 80's it's passe, but then again, given the way a new generation of people are driven to success at any cost, maybe it's not just the 80's.

Bale does a good job of capturing Patrick, being both funny and terrifying, often at the same time, and yet showing that the person he most terrifies is himself. The other actors are all good, particularly Chloe Sevigny as Patrick's secretary, and makes it believable that she's the one person he would spare. A couple of points on what people have written; if the other characters seem shallow, that's partly because that's how Patrick sees them. Also, I don't think we're supposed to think he imagined it all; I think his friends just don't believe a serial killer may be in their midst(which is why Harron keeps Ellis' last line "THIS IS NOT AN EXIT" on the door behind Patrick).

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Vaguely unsatisfying, 17 April 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You ever enjoy a movie while it's playing, but then walk out feeling a little cheated? That was my experience with this movie. Certainly, there is stuff to like here. Edward Norton is rapidly proving himself to be one of the best actors of his generation(and to those who are saying, "Oh my God! He can do comedy?", I'd suggest taking a look at EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU, or, for darker comedy, THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT or ROUNDERS), and he continues to demonstrate that here. He's very subtle in conveying how he gradually falls in love with Anna. He also does a great RAIN MAN riff. And as director, it's nice to see he doesn't let himself hog all the screen time, but shares it equally with Stiller and Elfman. Stiller is, as usual, very funny, and manages to convey his character's conflict in a way that makes it feel real, rather than just plot. And Elfman continues to prove there's a lot more to her than Dharma.

BUT(and beware, there are some spoilers coming up):

The movie can't help getting sitcom-ish at times. Some of it, of course, is personal; I must admit liking verbal gags more than physical, unless the physical ones are done well, and Norton indulges in too many for himself at first(the one with Stiller fainting at the circumcision may have been obvious, but that was nicely done). More importantly, while the movie tries to respect each religion, it still seems a little cartoonish and unbelievable at times. I know each of them are trying to make their congregations come into the 21st century, as it were, and I'm all for that, but sometimes, I just didn't buy them(I'm a Catholic, and while I went to a liberal Catholic college, I'm not sure I'd believe New York Catholics would want the movie SEVEN to be involved in a discussion of the seven deadly sins). But most of all is how Norton and writer Stuart Blumberg seem to rely on romantic comedy formula rather than genuine feeling. Yes, I'm talking about the reconciliation scene; that came straight out of Sitcom 101(also Stiller's "revelation" scene at the traffic light right before that). At the end, Norton thanks Nora Ephron and confirmed in an interview I read that he called her up for advice. I wish he hadn't, because scenes like this are hallmarks of her films and why they're so shallow. And did they have to sing Barry Manilow at the karaoke center?

This isn't a terrible film, understand, I just found myself vaguely irritated even while I was laughing at some of it. Overall, I'd recommend it, but it's not without flaw. Brief aside: I chuckled when Norton was holding the ANNA BANANA sign at the airport because in high school, I had a friend named Shanna who, when she ran for student council, had the slogan "Don't be a Banana/Vote for Shanna," whereupon her friends started calling her Shanna Banana. We also tried calling her sister "Stacy Banana," but that didn't take.

70 out of 85 people found the following review useful:
Cusack continues winning streak with this film, 5 April 2000

I read the novel when it first came out because the title intrigued me, and I found it quite good. When I heard John Cusack was adapting it and moving the action to Chicago(from London in the novel), I was a little worried, because I worry about changing things during adaptations for arbitrary reasons, but I needn't have worried; though I have a few quibbles, which we'll get to later, Cusack and Co. have done a fine job adapting the novel.

First off, I've read one comment which claims it stereotypes "music geeks." The type of people Hornby, Cusack, his co-writers(D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink, who also co-wrote GROSSE POINT BLANK, and Scott Rosenberg), and director Stephen Frears are portraying is a very particular type of "music geek"; the type who is a snob about music. Almost all of us, I would say, are aggressive about our likes and dislikes when it comes to music, but not many, I agree, compare liking Marvin Gaye and Art Garfunkel to "agreeing with both the Israelis and the Palestinians." And probably not many of us would be so cut off from feelings that, when hearing about a person's death, would find no better way of expressing their sorrow than listing their top 5 songs about death. Yet we do like these people as characters because we see even if they have some snotty attitudes, they do have a genuine love for their music, and they're in a low-paying job because they love what they do. And who among us hasn't turned to music when we've felt sad(or happy), like Rob does, or wished that Bruce Springsteen(and a pox on the person who, in their comments, implied he was passe. Bruce will NEVER be passe) would talk to us directly like he talks to us through his music? The novel and the movie captures all of that.

Another strength, of course, is Cusack's performance. Woody Allen once said that while American actors were very good at playing virile men of action, there weren't many who could play more "normal," regular people. Cusack, on the other hand, has carved out a niche for himself playing regular guys. He doesn't look like The Boy Next Door, and he's neither stereotypically sensitive or hip, but comes across as a guy who feels both at ease and yet still longs for something more. At his best, like in movies such as THE SURE THING, SAY ANYTHING, THE GRIFTERS, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, GROSSE POINT BLANK, and this, he plays people on the cusp of growing up, who are able to if they want to, but aren't sure if they want to, and yet he's made each of them different. Rob's condition may be a little more conventional - he's not sure if he wants to settle down yet - but Cusack, while unafraid to show his unlikable qualities, makes us like Rob anyway.

The rest of the cast is also quite good. The well-known names only get short takes(Lisa Bonet, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones), but they make the most of their time. I've never seen Iben Hjejle before(I haven't seen MIFUNE), but she does well as the most grown-up person in the movie. But the real stars, besides Cusack and the music, are Jack Black and Todd Louiso as Rob's co-workers. Black especially reminds me of people I knew.

As I said, I do have some quibbles. There are a couple of incidents in the book which don't make it to the film which I would have liked to see(the Sid James Experience, and the lady who wanted to sell Rob a ton of valuable records for a ridiculously low price). I'm getting tired of movies which use rain as an expression of sorrow, and this is an example of overuse. And the character of Laura isn't developed as well in the movie as she was in the novel. Nevertheless, this is well worth checking out.

6 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Shallow film lifted by good performances, 14 February 2000

A lot of critics compared this to Robert Altman or Alan Rudolph films; I think Carroll is really aiming for James L. Brooks doing Altman or Rudolph. A lot of the lines are trying for that snappy Brooks dialogue(like when Keenan(Ryan Phillipe) tells Joan(Angelina Jolie) "I don't date," to which she responds, "I've never heard that one before."), and trying to mix comedy and drama as well as he does. The problem is while Carroll is trying at least for grand things - talking about love, death, family - he misses in how to do it. It's clever when it wants to be insightful, and shallow when it wants to be truthful. And while there are supposed to be surprises at the end, only one of them really was(which I won't reveal).

On the other hand, this can't easily be dismissed, because all of the performers are appealing(even though Anthony Edwards, Dennis Quaid, and Madeline Stowe get stuck with ridiculous subplots, they're always nice to watch). Even Phillipe, who I normally don't like, comes across pretty well here. The ones who register the most are Anderson, Connery, Jolie, Rowlands, and Stewart. Stewart and Anderson feel like a real couple, and they nicely underplay their dialogue, which makes it play even better(especially when Stewart first meets Anderson's dog; "Suddenly I feel inadequate" may seem like a sitcom line(even though it IS a huge dog), but he makes it seem real). Jolie clearly relates to these types of roles, and gives all of her lines an extra snap to them. She's also very expressive here with her face. Connery and Rowlands also feel like a real couple, and it's nice to see him acting with someone his own age for a change. Some have questioned whether it's realistic what they would be arguing about, but since she wants to talk about something else and can't, this is her way of getting it out, so I had no problem with that.

Overall, it's one of those films saved by good acting, but if Carroll is aspiring to the level of a James L. Brooks, he needs to go deeper.

Scream 3 (2000)
48 out of 74 people found the following review useful:
So-so finale, 10 February 2000


As I've said before, I have little use for sequels, which was I was surprised to find myself going to SCREAM 2, and even more surprised that I enjoyed it. Like the first one, it was fast, scary, funny, and took some nice satiric jibes. Even the much debated identity of the killer in the second one made sense as a satiric swipe at horror movies, so it didn't bother me. I didn't know if they'd be able to keep it going for a third movie, especially when hearing Kevin Williamson's involvement was going to be minimal(he's a producer, and he wrote an outline which eventual writer Ehren Kruger worked from), but I liked the first two, I was especially pleased to see Scott Foley(from FELICITY) and Parker Posey in the cast, and I was intrigued to see what happened. In retrospect, I probably should have waited for video.

Certainly the opening shows a little promise; instead of the usual celebrity cameo, we have a spoof of that, with Cotton Weary(Liev Schrieber), who's now a Geraldo-type talk show host, complaining about having to do a cameo in STAB 3(the movie within a movie here), so we know it's spoofing itself. The problem, of course, is we know Cotton's going to get killed, but Craven is able to draw suspense throughout the scene. We also get the stated purpose here during the phone call(which, also a bit clever, starts out with a woman's voice before the familiar tone of Roger L. Jackson as THE voice kicks in); the killer wants to find Sidney.

Sidney, of course, is living in seclusion, under a new name and barely going outside the house(which, of course, is under heavy alarm), so at first, she's almost like an afterthought to the movie. Instead, the center is on Gail Weathers, the tabloid reporter, now an entertainment reporter, who uses her reporter skills to play detective when Cotton is killed, and she decides to assist the police, specifically Detective Kincaid(Patrick Dempsey), in the case. Then there's Dewey, who's a technical advisor to STAB 3, the movie, and they of course worry about what's going to happen.

There's all kinds of potential here, and it's directed well, but it isn't written as well as I think Williamson would have done. There are scares which still work, and while the Dewey/Gail relationship seems a little old hat, the two Arquettes obviously like working with each other, and their familiarity with us helps smooth that over. Also, while Campbell is disconnected, she's still sympathetic, and while she doesn't have the same fun with herself as she did in the first one, I understood that. And there is humor, most of it coming from Posey as the actress playing Gail in STAB 3; few actresses can make contempt funny like she can. There's also the standard satiric bite(the bodyguard who guarded Julia Roberts and Salman Rushdie but ends up toast here).

But as I said, it isn't written as well, and the primary weakness is the killer. In some senses, I guess, having the director(Foley) be the killer makes sense, because he has the technical expertise to handle things. But it seems to come out of nowhere, and perhaps to distract us from that, Kruger gives us the idea of him being a long-lost relative of Sidney's, which is ridiculous. Perhaps because of that too, Foley goes way over the top, which is funny at first, but then becomes tiresome. Also, Kruger cribs not from other horror movies here, but from the first SCREAM(the cloning of the cell phone being a prime example). And while Williamson's red herrings were pretty clever, this one seems not thought out. Emily Mortimer's character(she plays the actress who plays Sidney) is a perfect example; there are two indications she might be the killer(three, if you count the woman's voice to Cotton), and yet she's killed off almost as an afterthought. Finally, as to compensate for all of this, there are a lot more killings to cover up. Which begs the question; if all he wanted was to find Sidney(as stated early on several times), why not just take Dewey, Gail, and Cotton et al hostage? The first two movies mocked the Idiot Plot Rule; this one mostly personifies it.

It's a shame, because there could have been something made from all this(oh, almost forgot; Dempsey, who I normally don't like, is surprisingly good, and also unrecognizable here). But this certainly doesn't break any rules. Even the Jamie Kennedy cameo seems obligatory rather than fresh. This suggest they should have stopped at the second one.

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