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A great low key tribute to a hilarious classic
The T.V. series "Clueless" takes off right where the extremely funny film left off. Here we find the character of Cher Horowitz portrayed by newcomer Rachel Blanchard, but the rest of the cast remains in tact. Minor characters like Ty and Josh have been removed (which makes sense because their "stories" were neatly wrapped up in the film) and instead we focus on the day to day adventures and teen-struggles of Cher, Dionne, Murray and Amber. The series takes the sardonic outlook of 90s teens that made the movie a success and expounds on it with great effect. The expansion of the Amber character to be a double edged uber-villain-cum-confidant is beneficial and often makes the episodes so enjoyable.
Inside Monkey Zetterland (1992)
Classic Character Study
In 2003 "Lost in Translation" finally broke the mould of films that were nothing more or less than intense character studies. That film has a sheet-thin plot, and for an hour and a half an audience watches two actors (Scarlet Johannsen and Bill Murray) FORCE them to care about the social plights of two characters. "Inside Monkey Zetterland" takes a far quirkier approach to the concept of character study, and succeeds just as well. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Sofia Coppola, director of the former, has a supporting role in the latter. "Monkey" delivers an ensemble case of quirky characters in zany situations that allow them, through their own character study, to make the plot simply about PEOPLE.
Haunted Castle (2001)
Overly violent film has it's moments but lags
Haunted Castle is at it's best a very dark, gothic cautionary tale about doing anything for fame. Unfortunately it goes to some fairly violent extremes to prove it's point. Played in IMAX theaters across America it is billed as a simple, animated trip through a haunted castle. This draws parents with children who might already be at wherever is housing the IMAX screen (aquariums, zoos, etc...) to bring their children in, where they are confronted with a plot about a young musician being enticed by Satan (referred to innocuously as "Mr. D") to sell his soul for eternity. Only a brief part of the film takes place in the actual mansion; the rest is a literal journey through the depths of hell where "Johnny" (whose eyes we see through) is shown how various dead musician's souls are being tortured. (Most vivid in my mind is the opera singer who is strung to a rack and slowly lowered into a vat of acid and barracuda.) The film's 3D effects are mind boggling but often misplaced if not neglected, and there are at least two scenes that play like over-produced music videos. (The last five or six minutes of the film are essentially the credits played VERY SLOWLY over a "performance" by Johnny's band.) In all, if you are not easily grossed out or terrified and don't mind some boring moments, the film is visually stunning, but NOT FOR CHILDREN.
Darkness Falls (2003)
Not the Worst Film Made, But Not the Best
In what has been a long chain of horror films attempting to follow the successful combination of dark humor and MTV-style film making in the "Scream" franchise, "Darkness Falls" delivers not much more than one would expect. In the town the shares the film's title, the ghost of a woman wrongly hanged for the deaths of two children seeks vengance for that crime. Deemed "the tooth fairy" in her living days (for obvious reasons,) she sneaks into bedrooms of sleeping children to steal their teeth; but if you see her accidentally, she stalks you down and kills you. The catch? She's sensitive to the light. A bunch of cheap thrills (like cats jumping out of nowhere) and illogical plot developments (like, why does the ghost want to harm the innocent? Wouldn't it make more sense if she was hunting down the relatives of those who wronged her?) leave the audience feeling a little cheated; the sour attempts at humor do nothing to liven the flick.
The Apocalypse (1997)
So bad it's good
The plot is somewhat typical of a scifi movie, yet could've had potential: in the past, a crazy woman hijacked a ship carrying enough explosive chemicals to destroy a world. She rigged it so that whoever discovered the ship and reactivated it in the future would be stuck on it in a collision course with Earth. Jump ahead: the ship, thought long lost, reappears and a salvage crew goes to save the contents and make a profit. Unfortunately the second half of the team turns out to be terrorist hijackers with no social conscience who slaughter most of the first half, leaving only two survivors to stop the ship from it's final destination. Sounds exciting, right? There's even a wicked plot twist wherein the crazy woman has recorded video footage of herself reciting Shakespeare quotes that you have to complete every few minutes in order to continue accessing the computer system. Even the characters sound good: a tough-talking female salvage pilot; the naive bartender/wannabe space explorer; the pilot's ex boyfriend, a man so drunken with greed that he'd risk an entire planet to try and turn a profit. The effects are fairly good as well. So why then does this movie fail so horribly? Because the dialouge is some of the worst scriptwriting EVER. An example: Bad Guy With Gun Pointed at Door - "Little Pigs, Little Pigs, Let Me In! (BLAM!) Or I'll Huff! (BLAM!) And I'll Puff! (BLAM!)" You get the idea. The incredible talented of Sandra Bernhard and Laura San Giacomo (left with the incredible task of free-associating Shakespeare with a mentally deranged space woman) are wasted in this film that's so bad you might just enjoy it if you're in the mood to mock it while you're watching.
Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
Drew Barrymore tries to make her "Brockovich" and fails
"Riding in Cars With Boys" is not a bad movie. Sure, it's slow, overlong and stalls about a zillion times throughout. Sure, the supporting cast (Britney Murphy and Sara Gilbert in particular, along with a guest turn by Rosie Perez,) outshine the leads. Sure, the laughs are infrequent and the drama often is predictable and lackluster. But somehow you want so badly to like this story of the young mother strugglign to fullfil her dream of a college education and a successful career while raising her baby, you almost don't notice. Almost. Drew Barrymore obviously jumped at the chance to make this film. It's forumla was incredibly successful and well executed by Julia Roberts in "Erin Brockovich" (the plot lines are very similar: white trash woman with kids and crappy past fights to gain independance, romance and success in a world that rejects the notion.) However Barrymore just doesn't pull it off, instead making you hate her domineering, bitchy and often just plain stupid character. You walk away with the feeling that two and a half hours spent learning about this woman's life were really just a waste of your own.
Possibly the Most Astounding Video Game In the World
"Nine" Is perhaps the greatest success the video gaming community has ever brought forth. A big budget, star-packed vehicle, it is visually stunning, enriched with great acting and plot driving scenes, and the most challenging puzzles you'll encounter. The game's premise is thus: your uncle, Thurston Last (Christopher Reeve,) has left you his hotel in his will. The hotel, called The Last Resort, is created on a well of cosmic energy and was built to house creative talents from across the universe who are seeking their Muse. However, it has been taken over by two alien entities called The Toxic Twins (Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith.) The resort has, in essence, been laid to waste, and it is your job, through a series of very elaborate puzzles, clues and twists, to bring the place back to life. You do so by finding the missing pieces needed to assemble what is called "The Muse Machine." This is not a moron's game. Although some of the puzzles along the way are simple enough to figure out, the overall puzzle in the game (which involves translating, then retranslating, then RE-RE-translating various items of sheet music through archaic codes and then playing chords on an organ) are incredibly difficult. The whole game revolves around music, and is very artistic in it's presentation. (The whole mansion has an folk-art feeling.) Even Cher stops by for an appearance as one of the muses, a spiritually animated (if somethies annoying) fortune telling machine named Isadora. In all the game is spellbinding, and it seems the worlds of video games and Hollywood have finally found their niche. Sad, then, that I discovered this game lying in a bin full of about 1,000 copies at a dollar store.