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The Wild Party (1975)
Something tells me that the story of how this movie even got made is more interesting than what ends up on the screen. Surely, when matching low-budget exploitation producer Samuel Z. Arkoff with the future-classic producing/directing team Merchant/Ivory, something odd must have occurred. Nothing, and I mean nothing about this 1975 film, based on the infamous Fatty Arbuckle scandal, works. The film, sadly, exists to new audiences as a cautionary signpost marking Zarkoff's failed attempt to move toward legitimate mainstream film-making. He should have stuck to his bread-and-butter tripe (such as "The Beast With a Million Eyes").
Here we have tubby James Coco (with over-the-title billing!) throwing a party to lure members of silent-era Hollywood moguls to distribute his self-financed Opus. Complete with songs by the (terribly melodramatic) Raquel Welch, the film sinks deeper and deeper in to awkward, self-indulgent pathos. Poorly acted, directed and designed (with cheaply dressed sets and awful original "period" songs in the background), this film is one to be missed at all costs. Perhaps one day, the true secret to this film's odd conception will be revealed, and it will make some sense. Until then, perhaps a potential viewer would be better off reading a book.
Man on Fire (2004)
Heavy Handed Direction Ad-Nauseum
Few people can refute Tony Scott's previous box office successes ("Top Gun", "Crimson Tide"). Armed with such clout, he surely can saunter in to a pre-production meeting and get virtually any tool he needs to craft his latest "masterpiece". "Man on Fire" is evidence of such power being abused. Like a child who gets everything he wants, Scott's film turns out just plain rotten. Unfortunately, the audiences who have to endure this latest display of of cinematic spoil are left with the dubious duty of shelling out their hard-earned money to try to follow the scent of this tripe.
And tripe it is.
While the plot (re-hashed from a previous version of the movie) is compelling, Scott ruins his version with his "look ma, no hands" jerky camera work, flashbacks, multiple-exposures, frame-dropping, color timing on an acid trip, simulated under/over-cranking etc. etc. etc. His extreme heavy-handed direction not only detracts from the possibility of audiences enjoying the movie, but disables the average viewer from even digesting enough information to follow major scenes.
Denzel Washington delivers a compelling performance as man out for revenge, what parts can be seen between the directorial smoke and mirrors. But while "Crimson Tide" explores the mental limits of a man with the power to launch Polaris missiles, in "Man on Fire", Washington spends most of the movie spreading his hate in any direction he can aim a shotgun.
Thus, he ends up being is a hood ornament on Scott's freight train as it plummets off a cliff.
"Man on Fire"? If that man is Tony Scott, pass me the marshmallows.
Playing by Heart (1998)
Woefully Disjointed and Sloppy
How did a movie like this ever even get made? "Playing By Heart" has a myriad of notable actors meandering through painfully sluggish dialogue as they define, discuss and detail their individual relationships, ad-nauseum .
Writer-Director Willard Carroll must know where a body is buried in Hollywood, as it is the only explanation for this mess to ever get poured into a motion picture camera. The film jumps between one unrelated story to the other, giving no time for characters or plot to develop. To ensure that the viewer stays completely frustrated, many of the characters develop in directions that are never re-addressed by the film, leading the viewer down several of these meaningless dead-ends. We get to follow Dennis Quaide as he plays out invented characters in a seemingly endless string of bars, all in the name of his acting class. Beware of those who want to pin this film as Sean Connery's best role. Rent "The Untouchables" if you have any doubt. Despite a noble effort by Connery and others, the dialogue and overall sloppy directing will make the viewer hard-pressed to find any real teeth in the characters. "Playing By Heart" is a complete disappointment. It is neither romantic nor insightful. It is plentiful in mediocrity.