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The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
I just don't understand how this film could be rated as low as 7.6. It combines a brilliant script with stunning cinematography, an outstanding score, and more than a touch of sheer poetry.
And I'm not even an Atom Egoyan fan.
I feel that it was the best film of 1997, arguably the best of the decade.
Forever Mine (1999)
Oscar-worthy cinematography lost in the shuffle
Forever Mine is not a good movie. Many other reviewers on this site have pointed out why.
But let's give credit where credit is due.
Cinematographer John Bailey did a magnificent, Oscar-worthy job on this film! It looks great. The first half takes place in Miami in 1973. I lived in Miami in the early 70's, and this film caught the feel of it so beautifully that I could smell the Cafe Cubano, hear the Jai-Alai cheers, and feel the sea breezes. The pastels, the faded glory of the hotels, the neon lights, the whole palette.
John Bailey can't be blamed for Forever Mine's script, or its legal problems, but the result of those problems must have been depressing for him because nobody ever saw Bailey's work projected on the big screen after the film festivals. That's really a shame. This film was meant to be projected in a 2.35 aspect ratio, and that simply can't be appreciated anywhere except a big screen. Of course, Bailey didn't know it would go straight-to-cable-and-DVD when he filmed it in that super widescreen ratio.
By the way, this work was no isolated fluke for Mr. Bailey, as you might guess. He has never won an Oscar, or even a nomination, but he's shot some very fine films in his career. He probably should have been nominated for an Oscar for his work on The Big Chill, and he has shot some terrific offbeat stuff, like Cat People and Groundhog Day.
So, a strong "well done" for Mr Bailey, for work that few people will ever see.
Cinema at its best
I feel guilty of litotes in stating that this is merely the best film in the history of cinema, because it is much more than that. It is probably the greatest artistic achievement in any field, and arguably the crowning achievement of mankind in our stay on this big blue marble. Many people believe that all of existence and all of evolution took place just so all the DNA tumblers could turn, making our brains large and sophisticated enough that Joysticks could be created. It pains me that Robert Duvall won the Oscar for Tender Mercies when Joe Don Baker's poignant performance in Joysticks failed to score even a nomination, and that the great Jon Gries (later to become the legendary Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite) would receive no recognition for having portrayed the full gamut of human emotions so evocatively in his sensitive turn as King Vidiot.
Copying Beethoven (2006)
It's a remake of Coyote Ugly in the 19th century!
Wow! Now that demonstrates what a genius Beethoven was. His music is so good that it even makes Coyote Ugly's plot seem worthwhile.
The actual performance of the Ninth is such a great sequence that nothing else in the film matters.There are no words. The scene consists entirely of Beethoven's Ninth and facial expressions. Harris does a magnificent job of capturing Beethoven in that moment, of giving a face to all the ardor that went into the creation of the music, to all the passion and ecstasy that the music encompasses, and to all the gratification he feels that it could come to completion so successfully. The rest of the actors respond in character to what they are hearing. The emotionally rich segment lasts about ten to fifteen minutes, and makes the entire film worth seeing. It is one of the best, most emotionally resonant sequences in the history of film.
The rest of the film is just bull spit - pure Hollywood filler which just marks time until you get to the performance.
But it is absolutely worth the wait.
Unlike many who commented on this show, I didn't grow up watching Pete and Pete. You see, I'm nearly 60 years old.
I discovered it by accident, or I should say that my stepdaughter discovered it by accident, then I walked by and got hooked like Bob the bass. I ended being the show's biggest fan. As I re-watch it on DVD, I love it more than ever. Today I got season two and was going to watch one episode to pass the time. That had a prayer. As soon as I saw the episode names, I knew I had to watch them again: The Time Tunnel, Inspector 34, The Phone Call.
Those three episodes alone will demonstrate to you that this series is good in ways that no other series has ever touched. It says as much about America as any Ken Burns documentary, it makes me laugh as much as the best episodes of Seinfeld, and it's cooler than anything which ever sprang from the mind of Slushmaster Bob. Its narrative flow is deeply cynical, yet there is a strong undercurrent of warmth and hope, as if it despairs of what people are, without forgetting what they yet might be. It never forgets that we, like the Petes when they time-travel, may yet find a way to do it over, and get it right. Even without Riboflavin.
I have been a major league TV addict for 50 years, and if you ask me to name the best show I have ever watched ... well, I don't know if I could name just one ... but this obscure Nickelodeon show would be one that would come to mind - alongside I, Claudius and The Civil War and The Simpsons and all the other greats. It's sheer genius, with more than a touch of poetry.
In the words of Inspector 34, it's so much better than underpants.
The Foreigner (2003)
As bad as any movie I've seen in the past year.
The Foreigner is a straight-to-video Steven Seagal film that was originally intended to be released as a theatrical feature in March, 2003, an intention which was reportedly reversed when Seagal's prior film (Half Past Dead) tanked at the box office. According to some reports, the film had a lavish $20 million budget, including location shoots in Warsaw and Paris, and was completed as part of the studio's obligation to a two-picture deal which was negotiated after the relative success of Exit Wounds seemed to indicate that Seagal still had a solid following.
Despite the size of their investment, Sony Screen Gems probably made the right move in shelving this movie. It is nearly incomprehensible. What am I saying? It IS incomprehensible. I don't think I understood what was going on at all, except in the very broadest terms.
Seagal is employed by a mysterious guy to deliver a mysterious package to another mysterious guy. Other mysterious guys try to stop him. Other highly mysterious guys try to kill the moderately mysterious guys who try to stop him. Other really, really mysterious guys do especially mysterious stuff, all of which which was in fact too mysterious for me to figure out. The intended recipient's mysterious wife tries to intercept the package before it can be delivered to her husband. Because he is a self-proclaimed "consummate professional" who has been hired to deliver the package only into the hands of the husband, Seagal at first defies the wife, then later gets involved in protecting her and her daughter from other mysterious guys with unexplained agendas, as well as from her husband.
Many people have mysterious, cryptic conversations. Many people blow each other's brains out. Some guys seem to die more than once, while in other scenes gunfights end without a clear view of the result, so the audience sees somebody die, but is not sure which one of the gunslingers is headed to boot hill. Allegiances shift often, adding further mystery. Or should I say confusion?
I don't know who was on whose side, or what anybody really wanted, and the resolution was as unsatisfying as the exposition. At the end of the movie, I just sat there thinking, "That's the end? What the ...?"
I couldn't even figure out the credits. IMDb says that Aussie actress Kate Fischer (from "Sirens") was in this film, but I'll be damned if I know where. Either she was left on the cutting room floor or she wisely opted out of the project. She could have found some activities more beneficial to her career, like having unnecessary surgery, ripping those pesky insert cards out of magazines, or taking some community college courses in animal husbandry.
Seagal used to be a pretty fair hand-to-hand combatant, but the action scenes didn't manage to redeem this film at all. Seagal is in his 50's now and is a very large man, so he is reduced to a mimimal level of physical exertion and even during that he is contained in a knee-length coat to hide his inchoate Brandoesque girth. He might even get a little winded removing the wrappers from candy bars, although that's understandable if you estimate just how many of those he must have to eat to maintain his present girth.
Steven Seagal seemed to be making a comeback with Exit Wounds, but if his last film was half past dead, this one must be pretty close to filling out the other half.
Final Destination 2 (2003)
Back in 2000, Final Destination was kind of a surprise mini-hit at the U.S. box office, with a $53 million domestic gate. Critics didn't generally care for it, but I sort of enjoyed the youth-targeted entry in the horror/slasher genre. It had a modicum of ingenuity, maintained an ominous tone, and managed to pull off some creative deaths which seemed to come jarringly out of nowhere. Oh, sure, it used the same old formula, but at least it handled everything pretty well.
In that first film, a teenager pulled his friends off a plane based on a premonition that they would all die. The plane did blow up, but ol' Mr Death was mighty ticked off at being cheated, so he eventually caught up with them and killed them in the same order in which they would have died if they ha d stayed in their seats.
Death has always been a sore loser! He makes John McEnroe look as gracious and white-bread noble as Lou Gehrig. Hell, he's still hacked off about losing that chess game in The Seventh Seal.
This year's sequel takes place on the anniversary of that first plane crash. In the latest development, a young girl has a premonition of a massive pile-up on the interstate highway, so she uses her car to prevent her friends and some others from using the on-ramp. The pile-up does occur, so she saves many lives, but Mr Death is still being a poor sport in the sequel, and he starts immediately to kill off the people who were spared unduly.
Um ... assuming that makes sense to you so far, it pretty much stops making sense there. The girl with the premonition goes to a mental institution to visit the one girl who survived the airplane incident in the original movie. (Ali Larter, who appears in both films and has enough talent that she should have a better career than this.) Together, the girls go to visit that Candyman dude with the really low voice, who is apparently in this movie because his own horror series has run out of sequels. He's supposed to be an expert in death, and he mutters some profoundly spooky stuff which makes little sense but sounds important, so the survivors mull it over for the rest of the film. He tells them that "only a new life can defeat death".
Before the survivors can figure out the precise meaning of Candyman's advice, they come up with several misinterpretations of the cryptic remarks, and most of them end up dying in nasty ways - their bowels chopped out and their nostrils raped and ... well, for the details, consult the Sir Robin song in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Will any survive? You have to watch it to see.
The sequel does not have the talented Devon Sawa. It has none of the jarring surprise engendered by the Rube Goldberg deaths that marked the first film. It also has very little of the macabre wit that powered the original, the only real exception occurring in the very last ten seconds of the film. Mostly it just has scenes which depict the explicit dismemberment, piercing, decapitation, and fricasseeing of various humans, and the distribution of their remains in unpleasant places.
Although the original Final Destination was a popular film with young audiences at home and abroad, most critics hated it. I rather enjoyed that first one in a guilty pleasure sense, but I didn't consider the sequel worth watching at all.
Die, Mommie, Die! (2003)
High camp genre parody works pretty well
Charles Busch is a female impersonator who writes and stars in genre parodies. His last filmed effort was Psycho Beach Party. This latest effort, Die Mommie Die, is a parody of the drama queen melodramas of the 50s and 60s, in which actresses like Susan Hayward schemed and
seduced callously, and encountered crises which were not only larger than their real-life counterparts, but also arrived with far greater frequency.
The genre died out of the film world before most of you were born, but it left behind a legacy of nighttime soap operas like Dynasty, so if you can remember Joan Collins on the small screen, you'll have a good idea of the equivalent big screen target Busch is focusing on.
Busch is a talented guy, whom you may remember from his portrayal of Nat Ginsberg on Oz. I don't know if it's even correct to call him a female impersonator. He is a male who plays certain types of female roles convincingly. His characterization in this film is so convincing that you'll forget he is a male, and his writing shows a real gift for walking the line between lampoon and homage.
Busch and director Mark Rucker got the actors to deliver all their outrageous lines in a consistently theatrical and obviously insincere style to match Busch's own. I thought Jason Priestly was especially funny as a bisexual gigolo. The entire film plays out as if everyone in the cast knows he or she is in a high camp entertainment, and wants the audience to know that they know.
I laughed a lot, to tell you the truth. I suppose drag queen movies may not be what most of you are looking for. Me neither. But the fact of the matter is that Busch can probably evoke the actresses of that era better than any contemporary female I can name. Hell, When I was a kid I always wondered if Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were really middle aged men in wigs, so who better to portray them than a 48 year old man in a wig?
Busch is making fun of the melodrama queens, but he also has a gift for witty dialogue and a genuine regard for the subject matter which makes this an entertaining confection about part of filmdom's barely-remembered past.
Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
Pretty good flick, but tough to market in current climate of USA
Talk about a cursed film. This is a dark, satirical look at the peacetime activities of the U.S. Army in Germany just before the wall came down. It offers such a critical look at the Army that every main character turns out to be a swindler, a wimp, an idiot, a junkie, or a psychotic.
This film made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival, three days before Sept 11, 2001. As you may guess, the bottom immediately dropped out of the USA's market for material critical of America and the American military, and the film was flooded out of a country awash in fear, paranoia, defensiveness, and patriotism. Given the current political climate, the Buffalo Soldiers almost seems to say to Americans, "now do you see why everyone hates you?" To this day (15 months after the Toronto screening) it had never been shown in a US theater before Sundance 2003, where it debuted to a mixed reaction.
Ray Elwood (Joaquin Phoenix) is the company clerk for a U.S. supply base. Like Radar O'Reilly, he's really making most decisions for his colonel to rubber stamp, but he's not the benevolent Radar kind of clerk. He's the wheeling and dealing Milo Minderbinder (Catch 22) kind of black marketer. If there is anything which an Army can obtain, Elwood will hustle it up and sell it at a profit, his product assortment ranging from Mop 'n Glo to arms to heroin.
Most of Elwood's colleagues seem to be stoned half the time, and that's bad news for Germany when the colleagues in question are engaged in tank exercises. We see the wacked-out GIs driving through beer fests, running over VWs, blowing up gas stations, and generally causing each other to die purposelessly. These deaths, of course, usually result in posthumous awards and medals, since the Army on view here is an institution which spins all news and sweeps all problems under the rug.
When the lads aren't killing off destroying Germany and killing each other, they manage to steal two trucks full of weapons, and Elwood is able to build this hijack into a mammoth deal for himself, involving a swap of the arms for 30 kilos of pure heroin.
The only real rain on Elwood's parade is a new straight-arrow top sergeant who immediately sniffs out the corruption on the base, and resolves to clean house, starting with Elwood. Since Elwood is a real bad-ass himself, he gives the battle with Top Sarge a real kick-start by deliberately screwing the man's daughter in a car outside his window. Of course, the Sarge does not take this lightly, retaliates, and the two men thence engage in an ever-escalating personal battle.
Joaquin Phoenix brings his unusual presence to the role of Elwood. He doesn't seem tough enough, or smart enough for the role, but there is something very positive that results from the disconnection between his personality and the lines he is speaking. He makes Elwood seem
like a wide-eyed college kid who fell into the wrong crowd and got in trouble scamming on campus, rather than like the hardened criminal he really is. That adds a lot of dimension and sympathy to a role that could have seemed like a complete dirtbag if played by another type of actor with a more obvious high level of weaselly intelligence, ala James Woods.
Since the honest top sarge is played with cold, psychotic brutality by Scott Glenn, their battles leave the audience at wit's end when it comes to choosing sides. Elwood is completely in the wrong, and the sarge is completely incorruptible, yet Phoenix just seems so much more vulnerable and sensitive than Glenn that we are unable to root for Elwood's downfall.
Although screened at Sundance, the film is about as un-Sundance as anything you'll see there. It features big name Hollywood actors and a budget big enough to finance about 20 typical Sundance features. It resembles Hollywood movies in other ways. It features macho street confrontations, racial violence, guys waving guns at each other, car wrecks, and big, bad explosions. It also centers around contrived characters who are obviously movie characters rather than real people.
To be honest, I thought it was a good enough movie that it got me emotionally involved with the plots and characters, but it's a good movie in the Hollywood sense, not in the indie sense, and I'll be surprised if it ever manages a successful run at the American box office. The peacetime army may really have been like this, but the Sundance crowd is the wrong market for the macho stuff, even though the anti-military message may resonate. Away from the rarefied mountain air at Sundance, this is just the wrong time to market a big-explosion movie which maligns America and its military and seems to justify anti-American feelings overseas.
Slick but typical genre pic. Hoffman lends prestige.
Ed Burns plays the leader of a crew of grifters who mistakenly rip off some money from a powerful and eccentric mobster. Rather than returning the money, Burns proposes to create a new custom sting for the boss (Dustin Hoffman), thus allowing the freaky criminal to gain some revenge on an old associate.
The mechanics of the sting are interesting, but it's not especially difficult to see the details which are supposed to be hidden from the audience. The secrets are altogether too obvious to people who regularly watch movies of this type. The most innovative element of
the sting is that Burns and his men have to devise the sting like a chess game, with several options that hinge on the behavior of the "marks".
The stylish sting seems to be properly conceived, but it is really the entire movie. The character development is minimal, so that by the end of the movie, the characters still remain strangers to the audience. There is some babble about the thrill of the con, but apart from that the characters' motivations and backgrounds are fundamentally unknown. They are people whose lives begin and end in the time frame of the film. They aren't people, but movie characters.
Dustin Hoffman seems to have gotten off on the sheer quirkiness of his role, and his audacious, mannered turn, filled with plenty of Hoffman's usual detailed character embellishments, provides some of the film's more interesting moments, but the filmmakers didn't really need an actor of his genius to play a "mark", and there was no reason for the character to be an aging, over-the-top mobster of questionable sexuality. (In fact, they rewrote the character when Hoffman came on board.)
It's a solid genre script which is given additional credibility by the presence of Hoffman, filmdom's greatest character actor, but I don't see much potential box office appeal to crossover audiences.
Pieces of April (2003)
Crowd pleaser. If given a chance, this year's Greek Wedding.
World premiere at Sundance 2003, hoping to attract a distributor
Filmed in 16 days in HD video. Reported budget: $160,000
April Burns (Katie Holmes) is a 21-year-old wild child with some big holiday problems. She has invited her straightlaced suburban family for Thanksgiving dinner at her run-down Manhattan tenement, even though she has no idea how to make a turkey 'n fixins dinner, and she discovers that she doesn't even have a working oven. April is forced to ask her eccentric neighbors for help in cooking her fifteen pound turkey, shifting the bird from oven to oven as she improvises the accessories.
Meanwhile, the Burns Family begins a reluctant journey from suburban Pennsylvania toward New York City's Lower East Side. April's Dad, Jim Burns (Oliver Platt) tries to convince the family that the day will be beautiful. Her mom, Joy (Patricia Clarkson) has her doubts and freely voices them. April's teenage sister and brother are squeezed between Grandma Dottie and a bag of snacks in the back seat as the Burns' family car hurtles toward Manhattan and what will most likely be certain disaster.
Revealed in good time is the fact that April's mom is fatally ill, and the potentially disastrous reunion will probably be the last chance for the antagonistic mother and daughter to reconcile.
"Pieces of April" marks the directorial debut of writer Peter Hedges, who wrote both the novel and the screenplay of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." He also wrote the screenplays for "About a Boy" and "Map of the World", so there has been no doubt that Hedges can write. In my estimation, there is no longer any reason to doubt that he can direct. Although shot in 16 days on HD video, with a budget under $200,000, April very successfully combines humor and poignancy in a film which could prove to be a PG-13 box office attraction, and has some potential to be a breakthrough smash like Greek Wedding. I believe that if the film gets a distribution deal, the word of mouth will be so strong that it will succeed. The 4:3 aspect ratio may be problematic for theatrical distribution, but the video quality is good enough that people will not be distracted by the film/video quality debate.
In fact, Hedges had earlier developed three different deals to make this into a 35mm film, with budgets ranging from $4 million to $7 million, but all three fell through, and Hedges ended going the low-budget route, attracting a quality cast and crew with deferred payments based on shares of the film.
This is a terrific little film which kept the world premiere audience laughing, received a long "standing O" from the Sundance crowd, and had the audience in tears when an emotional Hedges recollected the true stories which formed the basis of his fictional treatment. (The
mother, played with uncannily complex humanity by Patricia Clarkson, was based in significant ways upon Hedges's mother, and her own battle with cancer.)
The film rings true for anyone who has ever adopted a different lifestyle from his or her parents, and for everyone who can recollect suburban family outings with squabbling siblings and conflicted generations.
Great job, Peter, but don't stop writing now that you've achieved your dream of being a successful director.
All the Real Girls (2003)
Slow, dreamy, poetic look and first love won and lost
World premiere at SUNDANCE 2003. Has a distributor (Sony) and will be in limited release on February 14
OFFICIAL PLOT SUMMARY: Twenty-two-year-old Paul lives with his beloved mom and works as a grease monkey in a broken down North Carolina mill town. Unambitious, he has a devoted circle of rowdy friends and a reputation as a callous heartbreaker. When he meets his best friend's sister Noel, fresh from her boarding school graduation, the two fall into a perfect, real, terrifying love. They share innermost secrets and inhabit a sweet, dreamy bubble of mutual admiration and understanding.
COMMENTS: The film has to be accepted on its own terms. Slow-paced, sensitive, and dreamy, it gets deep inside of its characters. Paul may be a callous seducer, but he's so gentle with the girl he loves, that he won't even take her virginity when they get a hotel room. When she makes some mistakes that he considers betrayal, this blue-collar tough guy is just as heartbroken and emotionally vulnerable as anybody with more "refinement". Although he is a mechanic in a Southern podunk town, his character is portrayed without any Southern or working class stereotypes.
It's a collaborative movie made by college buddies. Director David Gordon Green and star Paul Schneider also co-wrote the screenplay, and went to college together. Editor Zene Baker is another college buddy. I suppose you might truly call this a true collaboration. Green has the title of director, but when your two best buds are also your editor and screenwriter, not to mention the fact that one of them is on camera constantly, it's difficult to say where one person's contribution ends and another's begins.
If you would enjoy a slice of life comedy/drama that will probably evoke many memories of how you felt when you won and then lost your first love, this is an effective and heartfelt personal statement about that moment of time. The small town locales and the original score work to perfection.
Not the way we were in the Hollywood sense, and maybe not a big box office kind of picture, but an insightful look at the way we really were.
These young fellas are good, dawg!
It's All About Love (2003)
Vinterberg shines as a director, fails as a writer
It's no surprise that this movie hasn't found a distributor yet. It was originally scheduled for a May 2002 international opening. That deadline passed, and it is now making its first international appearance at Sundance. After the Saturday evening screening, director Thomas Vinterberg took some questions, and the first question was something to the effect of "why would anybody give you so much money to develop such a clueless script?"
To be fair, there were people in the audience who enjoyed the film as well. I admired some things about it, but in general it's a muddled mess of a script. Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes play a Polish couple who are in the process of divorcing. The year is 2021. Danes is a famous ice skater, currently working in New York. Phoenix is merely in NY for a two hour layover, hoping to get his final divorce papers signed by Danes. Danes doesn't show at the airport, and Phoenix gradually realizes that she is in some terrible peril. He decides to stay and help.
The Danes/Phoenix love/reunion story plays out against a backdrop of cataclysmic meteorological change. Some days, all the water on the earth freezes for a couple of minutes. Some days in July, it snows over the entire earth. The laws of gravity no longer apply in Uganda, and Ugandans have to tether themselves to the earth. New Yorkers still have gravity, but all the unloved ones are dying off. The reasons for the epidemic are still unclear, but people have thus far concluded that "it's all about love". The result is that the dead bodies of lonely people fill the streets of New York, routinely ignored by blase commuters.
Pretty much the way it was back in the 80's.
Above the world, commenting on the action, flies Sean Penn, who used to be afraid of flying until his therapy and medication overcompensated,and made him afraid to stop flying.
Sound strange? A bit hokey? Contrived? It is. And I can't tell you the hokiest stuff because to do so would require spoilers.
Some of it is very effective. Vinterberg did a good job on the film's direction. The aesthetics are excellent, the mood of suspense is managed brilliantly in a few scenes, and the film looks much bigger than its $10 million budget. That's the good news. The bad news is that the script is a jumbled mess, and the actors' accents are confusingly inconsistent. In some scenes Danes and the miscast Phoenix speak accent-free, in their natural rhythms, using the phrases of native English speakers. In other scenes, their accents and phrases seem to be impersonating Boris and Natasha on Bullwinkle.
Vinterberg seems to have been able to make the transition from Dogme 95 director to professional film director effortlessly. Unfortunately, he shows no signs of being able to create a coherent screenplay. I will be interested to see his next film, because this one has a lot of promise shining through the fog of its faults. Rumor has it that his next script will be written by Lars van Trier, whose writing is far better than his direction, so that may result in a fruitful collaboration for both of them.
Toward a neo-realism
One of the audience members at the Sundance premiere asked Holly Hunter why she agreed to do this low budget project. Her answer was that the script had an "authenticity" which attracted her.
She's a fine actress and not a bad film critic either. The film really takes a major step toward fusing valid, commercially-viable dramatic structure with cinema verite. It is the story of a 13 year old girl, as written by a 13 year old girl and an auteur. It is, I am certain, not purely autobiographical. The girl took bits and pieces out of her own life and other lives around her to try to tell the world what it is like to be a 13 year old girl and face the inherent peer pressure. The adult co-author brought in some cohesive storylines, and a pretty good film was born. Voila! Neo-realism. It's all true, in a sense, and as Ms Hunter noted, "authentic", yet it is a film which can be watched by mainstream audiences who are consciously in need of a plot and conflict/resolution.
It shares a sense of immediacy with the works of Dogme or cinema verite auteurs, but it is much more polished than implied by that statement. Although the young girl provided the details of the characters, music, and atmosphere, the director and cinematographer used some polished suggestive techniques to shape and reinforce the storyline, moving to a richer saturation, a full pallette, and softer focus when the young girl is first accepted by the cool crowd, then desaturating, moving to harsher lighting and a cooler pallette when it all goes sour.
A good first movie from Catherine Hardwicke, doing precisely what independent films probably should do - personalizing, experimenting, trying to get inside of real characters.
In fact, Ms Hardwicke and Miss Reed (the co-authors) originally thought they might come up with a teen comedy, but the reality they uncovered wrote itself as a slice-of-life psychological drama. A good 7th grade girl wants to be accepted by the cool crowd. Her quest for acceptance leads to a dangerous, reckless friendship with the "hottest chick in her school", which leads to experimentation with sex, drugs, lies, shoplifting, and attitude. Her dysfunctional family struggles to get past their own problems long enough to see her crisis and (maybe)rescue her.
Bravo for neo-realism. Whoda thunk that someone making a movie about a 13 year old girl would ask a 13 year old girl to be her co-author? Not Hollywood.
The film will probably be rated R without requiring any major cuts. There is teen experimentation with drugs and sex, but no nudity from the teens. The adults also engage in some drug use and violence. There are some graphic scenes of piercing and self-mutilation. Holly Hunter does a fairly long topless scene, and the camera follows her down into a crouch, revealing a brief frontal. When the film is presented in a theatrical aspect ratio, the frontal shot will probably disappear until a full screen version is available on home media.
A Gentleman's Game (2002)
Excellent little movie doomed to commercial failure by an R rating
I know. You never heard of this movie. You probably never will again. Neither had I, and it turned out to be a complex, intelligent little sports movie about a child golf prodigy who gets the benefit of an education about life while he's sharpening his golf game.
It impresses most of all because it is filled with surprises. Every time you think it is going to go after a cliché, it goes in a completely different direction. You think the kid's dad is an ass? Not so. He's a regular guy who has days when he acts like an ass, like the rest of us. You think the Designated Golf Yoda is going to turn the kid into Nicklaus II? Not so. In fact, he begins by refusing to teach the kid how to play, and he never goes back on his word.
He only gives him one lesson related to golf:
Golf isn't that important. It isn't life.
This must be the most unmarketable film of all time. Every message in this film is something that you'd want your kids to hear. It is about decency, integrity, sincerity, and trying to grow up with perspective. It would be a great PG Disney film. Unfortunately, it is rated R because the dialogue is realistic. That's what life boils down to in Hollywood. If you make a movie for kids that shows them what the world is really like and gives them some approaches to take when they encounter that world, the film will be given an R rating, thus assuring that those kids will never see the film.
Kids are only allowed to see movies which are unrealistic.
So here you have what is essentially a sweet little coming-of-age movie, and no audience. I guess the producers finally figured that out, and abandoned any hope that A Gentleman's Game might have a theatrical release.
On the other hand, there's no reason why adults won't like the film.
* It looks sumptuous, was cast perfectly, and is acted beautifully.
* In addition to the stars, it features rounded performances from Gary Sinese and Philip Baker Hall, two of the greatest character actors in films today.
* The story has an emotional fullness to it, a sense of how life is more than contrived drama and moments engineered for the camera. There are no last-minute rallies or miraculous chips from the rough. There are no "Rocky" moments of ultimate sports triumph.
The dramatic payoff occurs when a man who lost his integrity reclaims it, and a kid who admires him decides he isn't going to give his own integrity up in the first place.
Edge of Madness (2002)
It's not very commercial, but a pretty good film
These comments contain minor spoilers:
Edge of Madness, also known as A Wilderness Station, is a quietly competent if decidedly uncommercial film about life in the Canadian wilderness circa 1850. It was filmed on location in Manitoba, directed by the same woman who did Better than Chocolate, an international success, and a film I really enjoyed.
Sarah Polley was listed as a producer in this film's advance publicity, and she was to have starred as well, but Polley dropped out of the project for reasons unknown to me, and her role went to unknown Caroline Dhavernas. You've never heard of Dhavernas, but she is lovely and definitely has some talent. The role required a wide range of emotional states, physical challenges, a beautiful singing voice, and extensive nudity, all of which she delivered with the aplomb of a seasoned pro.
As the story begins, a young woman stumbles into a remote town from somewhere in the wilderness. Half-crazed, starved, and frost-bitten from a long trek through harsh and frozen country, she spins a mad tale of killing her husband. The young man who passes for a constable in this outback hamlet must try to determine who she is and what, if any, truth resides in her story. The actual story is revealed slowly, inside her flashbacks, as he interrogates her.
It seems that she was a good and talented student, pretty and sincere, at an orphanage school for girls when she was chosen by a pioneer to be his bride. Although she was originally ecstatic about a chance to begin a life and start a family, her husband turned out to be an emotionally distant man who wanted a wife for the value of free labor, and to act as a release for his violent sexual urges. She therefore found herself trapped in the middle of the wilderness, isolated from human society, with a brutal monster.
The young investigator was torn by his responsibilities. The woman had already confessed to actions which clearly constituted premeditated murder under the law. She had waited until her husband's back was turned, then clubbed him over the head with the biggest rock she could wield. Yet the constable and everyone else could see that she was a gentle and good person who was only doing what must have seemed like the only thing she could have done to escape her life of involuntary imprisonment. In order to further accentuate the helpless of her predicament, the story adds a sub-plot about a local man who tried to rape her while she was in her cell, only to be foiled at the last minute by the constable.
The film would have been much better if it had decided to follow that excellent premise through to the end, because at that point it was standing very solidly on the kind of profound moral ground normally reserved for Kieslowski, asking the audience to determine exactly what was "right" in this context. She was in fact guilty of murder, but who among us could cast the first stone. Who could prosecute her after knowing her predicament? And if a society does prosecute and hang such a person, what does that say about the value of its laws and institutions?
Unfortunately, the director was not Kieslowski, and her source material was not that profound. The story took some easy cop-outs, thus completely resolving the moral dilemma without ever confronting it.
In essence, although it is a small Canadian film, it managed to create a Hollywood ending.
Even so, the yarn wasn't bad, to tell you the truth. I think the story gave a believable account of life in those times and the motivations of the various characters.
My only complaint was that it had profundity in its grasp, and let it go.
100 Girls (2000)
If they can get an r rating, they'll do well!
This is a pretty cute coming-of-age flick which has been languishing in distributor purgatory for more than a year. An indy filmed in late 1999, it was hoped to be a summer youth comedy, ala American Pie, but it never managed to work out a US distribution deal, and it may still not have one. They are now talking on the official web site about releasing it in the summer of 2001 in the USA, even though it has already been playing for some months across the world.
They have some hot young names in the cast: Jaime Pressly (the major babe of "Poison Ivy 3"), Marissa Ribisi ("Grown Ups"; she's Giovanni's twin sister), Katherine Heigl ("Roswell")
And I like the concept. Matt is a college freshman, a virgin, a bright and sensitive kid but basically a dweeb. Early in the year he is trapped in an elevator with a girl during a blackout, they have a tremendous heartfelt discussion, they make love, but he never sees her face. When he wakes up, she's gone without a trace. Ignoring the fact that she would have left a note if she wanted to see him again, Matt knows that he's found his true love, and will have to find her. All he knows is that she resides in a certain dorm with 100 residents, so he has to concoct a series of ploys in order to gain admittance to the building and the trust of the girls. One of the girls becomes his accomplice, and between them they come up with two different plans. Sometimes Matt is the uniformed maintenance man who will take care of the girls dorm. Sometimes he's in drag as a woman.
In the course of the semester, he really learns a lot about women while searching for his honey. He learns so much that after his speech to 100 open windows, begging his secret lover to reveal her identity, she does not, but all the other hetero girls claim they were the one! He can basically have any of them, and he's come to like many of them during the year, but he's a romantic and an honorable man, so he continues his search for his true love.
Other salient points:
There isn't much flesh, but there is plenty of really dirty talk. Dora, the intellectual girl, likes to read Henry Miller and D.H, Lawrence out loud, for example, and the taboo "c" word appears in the reading, along with some very lustful situations! When the girls are completely at ease, when they are drunk and Matt is in drag, they tell some hilarious stories to each other. One night each of them shares her funniest stories about oral sex. I suppose there is a real risk of NC-17 in the USA, for the language, and for the fact that one of the girls is openly promiscuous, seduces Matt, and obviously is really into it, both with her speech and her hips. It was some darned good lovin', not movie sex at all, but real people getting used to each other and having problems, then working it out.
Matt's own roommate is a doofy misogynist who is into "penis power", a system in which he gradually ties larger and larger weights to his penis, to lengthen and strengthen it. And of course, there is the requisite evil dude who exploits women.
Believe it or not, it is an intelligent movie. Possibly too intelligent for this genre. In fact, the dialogue is probably too intelligent for this or any other genre. The characters actually talk in written English rather than spoken English, the kind of poetic rhapsodies that nobody is capable of in real life, not JFK or Churchill or anybody else. Matt's speech to the 100 open windows is the spiritual descendant of Kevin Costner's famous speech in Bull Durham, too articulate to really be off the cuff, and it has the same impact on all 100 girls that Costner's words had on Sarandon.
But I don't think we need to consider that a weakness. Let's just say that the movie walks a fine line between literate and literary, and sometimes it may cross over the line a bit too far, but you'll allow it because it isn't boring and it produces the desired effect. Hope they get a US distributor, and I hope they can get an r-rating, because I think a lot of young people will like this funny and sincere film.
I won't tell you it's a great work of genius, and I won't say it's a sure hit, but I think it deserves a chance to let the popular jury make that call. It has a strong pro-female stance in that it portrays women as the only real grown-ups in the world, and Matt's experience in drag really sensitizes him to how much abuse women have to tolerate, so it could reach out to a female audience, assuming the rough talk is OK with them.
Young guys should like it, and learn from it. Some of them will buy a ticket just to see Katherine Heigl playing enthusiastic foosball in her bra. And I predict they won't demand a refund.
Evil Ambitions (1996)
If only they had the money ....
How many times have you watched an overblown, overproduced studio production like Coppola's "Dracula" and thought to yourself "I could make a better movie than that in my basement with my friends"?
Well, the makers of this film thought the same thing. They took a few grand and make a homemade video.
In all honesty, the film does have one strength. It has a good script. It's basically an r-rated version of a "Night Stalker" episode. (The main reporter character is even named McGavin). The plot is coherent, some of the characters are interesting, and there are some very funny lines.
High priestess: "Do you take Satan to be your lawful spouse, in richer and even richer ..... etc"
Bound and gagged victim: (makes fearful struggling noises).
High priestess: "I'll take that as a yes"
Satan himself is also funny, the ultimate achievement-oriented corporate guy, kind of similar to the Christian Bale role in American Psycho. And the Kolchak-like reporter has some pretty good wisecracks.
Real movie companies, with real budgets, have filmed worse scripts than this. Much worse.
But then there's the matter of the execution. The lighting is funky and too dark. The fight scenes involve people falling off-camera. The special effects consist of people leaning backward.
The acting is, well ....
Let's just say this is your movie if you go to porno films because you love the acting, but you actually hate porn. Most of the lines are delivered with the same flat monotone that you'd expect from local furniture store owners reading their own TV commercials off cue cards.
Oh, well. The script is still OK for a few laughs, and could be pretty good if professionals delivered the lines.
For Y'ur Height Only (1981)
Possibly the supreme achievement of mankind's presence on earth.
A 1979 Filipino movie filmed on a zero budget in Tagalog, and dubbed into English? Can it be worth watching? Absolutely.
It's about a small secret agent named 00 - really small - a dwarf about 3 feet tall, named Weng Weng. Now, I haven't consulted the Guinness records people, but I think it's a fair guess that he's the shortest secret agent of all time, unless you count Tom Cruise in those Mission Impossible films.
The budget is so small in this movie that they couldn't afford enough guns, so they have one bad guy point an umbrella at the l'il nipper, and the sound effects guy adds a gunshot noise to the sound track. 00 then uses this same umbrella to float down from a multi-story building, ala Mary Poppins.
Anyway, unlike James Bond, Weng Weng gets his assignment and his gadgets from the same guy, presumably because the Filipino Secret Service can't afford to have two separate guys do this, or perhaps because there are not enough letters in Tagalog to support having both an M and a Q.
This is one of the great scenes. The M and Q guy, like all the characters in the movie, speaks in 1930's American gangster slang, and he gives the l'il guy his gizmos with some interesting twists. And, bizarrely enough, he keeps complimenting 00 on his listening skills.
First, there is a radio controlled hat which looks just like one of those red, white and blue trimmed straw boaters that they wear on the floor of political conventions. Well, the "secret" agent looks mighty dapper in this, let me tell you. There isn't any explanation of why a secret agent would need a radio controlled Maurice Chevalier hat, but the bad guys seem to be deathly afraid of it. Perhaps there is the ever-present fear that he might break into "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" in his squeaky voice. Of course, if that was the plan, the Agency could have saved a few bucks, since this tactic would be just as effective with a non remote controlled hat.
Then there is a fountain pen which kills. "Of course. It isn't any good if you need to write with it, but we can't have everything."
Then there is a ring which can detect poison. It is made out of gold because the service couldn't afford platinum. Times are tough at The Secret Agency. They couldn't afford any marketing guys to create a catchy name for them, so they're just The Secret Agency.
Luckily, the bad guys are no better off, and have to drive Volkswagens. This is only one sign that their Evil Organization isn't doing that well. I'm pretty sure it's because their plan is to sell heroin to every sandbox and kindergarten in the country. Well, that's certainly evil enough, but it doesn't sound real profitable. I'm not sure if the little 1979 Filipino kindergarten kids had all that much disposable income, so Evil Organization's gross sales must be pretty low, and I think they can forget about floating that IPO. Either that, or the bad guys have priced the heroin so low that they can't make a profit from it. Either way, it isn't much of a plan.
Sample dialogue * "why, he's making a monkey out of the forces of evil" * "alright sister, freeze, the jig is up" * "Oh, my little head" * (about a police photographer photographing a crime scene) "I wonder if she does Bar Mitzvahs"
This movie is available on DVD. As I write this, The Godfather is not available on DVD. Nor is Schindler's List, nor Star Wars, nor American Beauty, nor Raiders of the Lost Ark, nor Rear Window, nor Lawrence of Arabia.
But For Your Height Only is.
The Next Best Thing (2000)
Pleasant, if unchallenging, watch
This is more or less an extrapolation of the real-life relationship of Madonna to her friend Rupert Everett. To refresh your memory, Everett is the big handsome lug who wants to be the first gay James Bond.
Anyway, the movie Everett (gay, as in real life) and Madonna (straight) are both depressed one night, and they get drunk and get it on and she ends up getting pregnant. She wanted a baby anyway, so she goes through with it, and the gay dad decides to move in with her and be the child's father, although the parents agree to pursue their own lives in other matters. Very enlightened.
Things work out great for many years until Madonna falls in love with a guy who lives in another state. She decides that she can just take her son and go, but Everett and his family don't see it that way. They go through some ugliness, and some family court battles, and the movie is about their attempts to resolve the matter.
I guess you can deduce from that summary whether you want to spend any time on this slice-of-life character based comedy/drama.
Madonna dances only around the living room, and she sings only briefly and informally (although this quiet duet with Rupert Everett, over the casket at a friend's funeral, was the best scene in the movie.)
I thought parts of this film were quite touching, it was slickly produced, there was some humor, and the characters were developed quite well. I didn't mind watching it at all, and never touched the remote. Believe it or not, screen legend John Schlesinger (Billy Liar, Midnight Cowboy, and many other fine films) directed this movie. He is now in his mid 70's.
The biggest negative, in my book: Madonna now speaks exclusively in perfectly modulated tones with her new refined accent. This would be fine if she were doing public service announcements, but it is much too stiff to bring vitality to a character, and she seems to deliver all her lines with the hollow self-awareness of a Stepford Wife. I don't really understand it. To me, Madonna's great success was generated by her vitality and daring. Now that's all under control and she delivers every line like one of those official spokespersons for the British royal family. Huh?
She has some talent, and I don't see why she needs this facade to hide behind. I'd like to see Madonna do a Jessica Lange - let us see her as a person, breasts sagging a bit, face dirty, makeup running, hair unkempt, face contorted with rage, whatever is really deep down underneath the stylish clothing and the Henry Higgins articulation lessons.
Not as bad as people have said
Skip the movie. Get the DVD anyway.
The online film critic, James Berardinelli, identified three factors that are a sure sign of trouble for a studio release:
1. It is released in January, AFTER the holiday movie season.
2. It is not pre-screened for critics. 3. The director lost control of the project, and asked to have his name removed from the credits. (This used to result in the official pseudonym "Alan Smithee". The new pseudonym is "Thomas Lee").
Supernova was marked by all three disaster conditions. This project was started, but not finished, by Walter Hill. Incidentally, rumor has it that some of the additional footage and at least some of the final edit was assembled by none other than Francis Ford Coppola. Another director, not a big name this time, (Jack Sholder of Wishmaster 2) also worked on the film.
It is a space epic more or less directly derivative of "Alien". A small space crew answers a mysterious distress call, and ends up taking aboard a mysterious artifact which turns out to be irreconcilable with human life. Actually, they went it one better. This artifact is incompatible with the universe.
This film is really for genre addicts only. There is nothing original or deep about it. I feel confident you'll know exactly what's coming in every scene. In its current 90 minute cut, it's too short for interesting character development, it has several plot holes, and it has a sappy happy ending.
It also features a very odd impersonation of Tom Cruise, as performed by Peter Facinelli, who mimics Cruise's smile, his voice, and his mannerisms. Facinelli is taller, and not as handsome, but the overall effect is remarkable. It is almost as if it were calculated.
This movie bombed big time with both critics, and filmgoers. It garnered 90% negative reviews, and the positive reviews weren't all that enthusiastic. Despite wide release, it grossed only 14 million dollars on a 60 million dollar budget.
Strangely, I found the DVD worthwhile. Oh, the movie is completely predictable, but it isn't as bad as people said it was. I suppose critics were predisposed to hate it because they were shut out of a pre-screening, and because they were aware of the director troubles in the production. Who's going to write a good review of a movie obviously dumped by the studio and three directors?
Don't get me wrong, it isn't a good movie, but it had some decent visuals, more or less capable characterizations, and was mercifully short, so I was able to watch most of it without the FF.
But the film itself is not the reason to rent the DVD. In my opinion, there is a good reason to rent it.
There are more than a dozen deleted scenes, all fully scored, and these allow to to see how the original movie was a completely different movie - with a philosophical overlay and a deeply distressing ending. (The entire universe is doomed, and the evil guy is not destroyed by being ejected from the ship.) Moreover, there were other sub-plots, an explicit autopsy was performed on a character who was cut from the final version, another live person was found on the contaminated colony, the computer voices were different, two computers were later consolidated into one, etc. From these deleted scenes you can see the movie that might have been and compare it to what resulted.
I won't tell you that the other movie was better, but it was different, probably much longer, and I found it interesting to speculate as to why they changed what they did.
Road House (1989)
Don't miss this!
A cinema classic. Hard to believe it was made in 1989, because it includes so many details which would have been considered cliches in 1939.
Here's the idea. Before I start, I need to tell you that this takes place in the present, not in the Old West. That's important, because it's really just an old western, as you'll see when you read through the plot summary. Hint: think Shane
A powerful landowner with a savage taste for hunting gets all his kicks from his domination of a small town and all its inhabitants. Ben Gazzara plays this part.
Don't miss the scene where Gazzara sings "Shboom, shboom"!
Ben comes complete with all the movie evil accoutrements, like llama heads in his paneled den. How hard could it be to kill a llama? They are big clumsy-looking pack animals and they don't live in places where they can hide or run away. In my den, I have the heads of dairy cows. Now that's good hunting. I also enjoy hunting for Koalas. They sometimes go for hours without muscle movement, so you don't have to waste any bullets.
Only one man is prepared to challenge Big Ben. The owner of a local bar simply wants to fix up his old joint and live his life, but Gazzara's goons keep roughing up the joint and scaring off the paying customers and demanding the usual "protection" money. How to fight back? The owner of the bar just happens to know the world's greatest bouncer. Oh, and the bouncer brings along his mentor, and together they stand tall against Ben and his henchmen.
The world's greatest bouncer is Patrick Swayze, then one of the hottest properties in filmdom after his success two years earlier in "Dirty Dancing". He's a piece of work. He wears a stoic expression, perhaps because he studied the Stoics while obtaining his Ph.D. in Philosophy from NYU. He also wears expensive Armani clothing (black is his color) and drives a Mercedes. Being an itinerant and lonely bouncer cleaning up run-down Midwestern dives isn't that glamorous, but the pay must be sweet. No wonder he gave up his professorship.
Of course, his immersion in the highlights of human thought have given him the insight necessary to utter such lines as "Pain don't hurt". There will be a test on this later. I think that line probably cracked me up more than any other in film history. The previous record holder, not surprisingly, had been in a comedy, "only the singing Hitlers over here. Dancing Hitlers over there." (You film buffs know the movie). Anyway, my buds and I swaggered around for years, whenever we would see each other, and intoned "pain don't hurt". Interesting question for the philosophers amongst you. If pain don't hurt, what does? And why do they call it pain? I'll leave the answers up to you, because these "trees falling in an empty forest" questions always hurt my head. Although, interestingly enough, when my head hurts there can be no pain, because.... (Your answer here).
I told you there would be a test.
There is also an interesting fight scene. Swayze is battling a knife-wielding goon. He relieves the guy of his knife with some proven technique of ancient Zen philosophy. Confucius once wrote that while the pen is mightier that the sword, he would prefer to deliver an enemy not a witty epigram from his quill, but a swift kick in the privates from his pointed shoes.
My translation from Mandarin may be a bit inexact.
Anyway, somehow the knife mysteriously reappears in the guy's hand, and Swayze uses the exact same maneuver to taunt him and remove the knife a second time. An important lesson for us all. If you have to do a second take on a scene - why waste it?
Oh, and the back-up cast. Make room for wrestler Terry Funk and Kevin Tighe. Tighe plays a guy named Tilghman, presumably so he won't have to learn any new consonants.
Oh, and the dancing. Remember this is a forgotten town about as run-down as the mining camp in "Paint Your Wagon", but all the chicks in the bar can dance broadway schtick.
Anyway, not many movies are so bad they are good. Most bad movies are bad because they are boring. But this one is not boring for a minute. In fact, "Road House" is one of the greatest comedies ever filmed, although I don't think the filmmakers were aware of it. It is worth watching, and has a great rock 'n roll score, but I strongly suggest that you do so under the influence of mood-altering substances and in the company of like-minded goofballs.
Bottom line - ya gotta see it.
Partners in Crime (2000)
It isn't bad
I guess it's a straight-to-vid, and you won't find any great surprises in it, but it's a pleasant enough way to pass a little time.
Rutger Hauer, now about double his fighting weight, plays a local detective who has to co-operate with the FBI's supervision of a murder/kidnapping. It turns out that the FBI hotshot called in on the case is his ex-wife. And he is now a single dad, and has a precocious ultra-cute daughter from a subsequent wife.
So you can see the cliches will fall fast and furious. And they do, especially when all the clues seem to point to: Rutger Hauer!
Anyway, the most pleasant surprise of the movie is an excellent performance from Paulina Porizkova as the FBI agent. She is natural in the relaxed moments, and capable when she needs to be in charge, and totally believable in the role. You know any other supermodels who can convincingly play a top bureau agent? I really believe she will be top actress, and not in cutesy glamour roles, either.
Maniac Nurses (1990)
Worse than merely bad
The full title is Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy. Interestingly enough, Ecstasy was in Vermont, not far from Montpelier.
Here's the formula to duplicate this movie: shoot some cheap videotape footage of women in white lingerie. You don't even need to shoot sound footage. In fact, it's more flexible without sound. Just make sure there are plenty of shots of the women from behind, so you can dub in some voices later without having to worry about lip-synching. This gives you the additional advantage of having the movie in any language for later distribution. Why just imagine your masterpiece in Catalan or Frisian, or even in Latin for its run in Vatican City. Include a little bit of nudity and gore, although this will have to be cut when the pope watches.
"Hey, now that I have the footage of them doing various things in my backyard, how does that become a movie?"
Easy, make up a story. Any story. Just watch an old episode of Alfred Hitchcock on Nick at Night, and copy down a plot summary. Now have one of your friends with a deep voice read your summary aloud, and tape him. Add this here and there throughout your footage as a voice-over narration. It worked for Blade Runner, and it can work for you.
"Hey, I did that and it's only 44 minutes long."
No problema, amigo. Here's how to lengthen it. Watch a travelogue on TV and tape it. Let's say it's about Venice. Choose about 10 minutes of good stuff, insert it in your footage somewhere near the end, and have one of the characters say something to another, something like "you wonder how it all began? Your mother and I met in Venice, where I was working as a gondolier." Have him or her recite some background activities, some interesting facts about Venice, or just some generic thoughts like "those were the good times, I tell you. Yessireebob". If you have a friend who can say it with an Italian accent, all the better. Or for that matter, any accent will do. People who watch movies like "Maniac Nurses" can't tell the difference between a Chinese accent and Estonian.
"Hey, no travelogues on tonight. Just some shark specials on Discovery."
No problem, my friend. Just change the monologue to "your mother and I met off the great barrier reef, where I was hunting the Great White with Captain Cousteau's crew." Pretty much any real-life footage will work.
"OK, done, now I still need another 15 minutes?"
Easily fixed. This is where you add some fine art which will make your film much admired at Cannes. Does your script take place over four days? That's three sunsets and three or four sunrises which not only add to the beauty of your masterpiece, but provide an all-important time marker for your film, and do so much more subtly than ripping the top page off one of those desk calendars. Do your characters live in a house? Surely there is a beautiful old home near you which will make for some good exteriors. Your narrator simply needs to say something like, "meanwhile, in Stately Wayne Manor, ... ".
Finally, perhaps one of your characters is reading some magazine. Right after the footage of the character, show some of the articles he or she was reading. If you show some warning signs of cancer or something, you'll not only add educational value but also provide redeeming social importance, which is so critical to those obscenity trials. And this has an added plus. Later in the film you can add the exact same footage back in as a flashback, while your character tries to remember that third warning sign. Use the same footage again and again to add to the fun, as you provide valuable insight into your character's psychological development, or deterioration, as the case may be.
Now the only thing left to do is to dust off the mantlepiece, and make a little extra room for your Palm D'Or.
Fire on the Amazon (1993)
Fire? Not even smoke.
A movie filmed in 1990, with a limited 1993 release, and a video finally released in 2000. Tell you anything?
It's a typically cheapozoid Roger Corman flick about the disappearing rainforest. The film is only 78 minutes long, and about half of it is a digression that takes place in an Indian village.
Here's the general idea. A famous indigenous environmentalist is killed. Although it is obvious that the money interests wanted him out of the way, the murder was performed with an arrow to feign an Indian attack, so the local police somehow decide to arrest a taciturn Indian who "hangs himself" in his cell after signing a full confession. There's a new plot twist, eh?
When the Indian's fellow tribesmen come for his body, a local North American environmentalist (Sandra Bullock) and a magazine reporter (Craig Sheffer) try to talk to them. They are unresponsive so, on the spur of the moment, the Americans follow the Indians up the river to their reservation.
Pause. Let's think about that. Sheffer and Bullock see the Indians paddling upstream, so they commandeer a canoe and follow. They don't know the terrain, they don't know how far it is to the destination, they have no supplies, they don't even have insect repellent, and they're in a stolen canoe paddling through the unfamiliar jungle, surrounded by crocs, snakes, bad guys, corrupt legal authorities, and stone age tribesmen.
Sheffer is shot from the underbrush, their canoe overturns, and they just decide to saunter through the rainforest in a random direction, even though night is approaching, they are soaking wet, and Sheffer has a gunshot wound. Well, as luck would have it, they are captured by indigenous people - the very ones they were seeking - and after some negotiations the tribe finally agrees to advance the plot somewhat:
1. They possess secret herbs that cure the wound
2. They perform a scientific autopsy on the guy who "hanged himself", thus proving he was dead before the hanging.
3. They possess more secret herbs that make Sandra Bullock want to make nice-nice for hours with the reporter (whom she had previously detested).
Well, now that the ice is broken, the lovebirds are constantly stealing a kiss on the corner of dirt roads, or in sleazy taverns filled with environmental terrorists and would-be competitors in the Anthony Quinn lookalike contest, and all of this romance is pursued with the same nonchalance you'd have with your best girly on the streets of London.
This movie might take the award for the most abrupt ending ever. Bullock and Sheffer are pursued by about a zillion heavily armed bad guys, including all possible legal authorities. They are trapped on a dock, machine guns to the front of them, water to the rear, with only about a minute left in the film.
A minute to resolve such a predicament?? Well, I'm not going to tell you how it ended.
The production values are execrable. The photographic quality is about equal to your dad's home movies, and the sound track is both inappropriate and cheesy. In other words, the director defied the odds and managed to make a bad script into an even worse movie.
I guess you know by now that Sandra did a dimly lit nude scene, and this is a rarity in her career, but she has said that she had her essentials taped down for this scene, so I don't know exactly what we are looking at. Maybe some Pebbles and Bam-Bam band-aids.
Incidentally, it seems there are still several minutes missing from the DVD cut. According to other comments, the original unrated cut was 85 minutes, but the unrated DVD release is 78. I suspect, however, that the clamor to restore the director's vision will be somewhat quieter than the one concerning "A Touch of Evil".