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Quality short
8 August 2002
An aspiring young writer (the gleefully innocent Michael Buster) agrees to rent an expansive house for the summer so that he can finish his novel. Little does he know that the previous tenant is a territorial and resourceful little fellow. Quality shorts are hard to come by, often turning out to be little more than trailers for filmmakers with a dreamy eye on fame, but writer/director/producer Joel Sadilek does a good job of getting in a full story arc. As original as it is funny, it is highly recommended - the editing, especially, is spectacular. While many short or indie films have a slapped-together look that is distracting, Summer House is a smooth journey. Another interesting note - the house itself, where shooting took place, was once owned by David Lee Roth.
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wonderfully bad
18 July 2002
Being a fan of horror films, I was naturally intrigued to see that Italian horror legend Dario Argento had made a version of Phantom of the Opera. I rented it without hesitation. Well, it certainly isn't his best work, to put it mildly. The film introduces several new and interesting elements to the Phantom story, which by now has been rehashed ad nauseum. Some of these elements include - the Phantom having been raised by rats, the Phantom is not (externally) deformed, and therefore, does not wear the mask that is almost mandatory for the part (despite the fact that it appears on the cover - though it does make a haunting appearance in one scene, if you can catch it in the background). Unfortunately, the potential of these new ideas is never fully explored, rather, they are reintroduced and reintroduced as if to say, "Hey, look what I thought of! Isn't that great?" It seems that Argento got so caught up in the atmosphere and style of the movie that he forgot there was actually a story going on. The commitment to atmosphere is obvious - the costumes _are_ positively marvelous, and the cinematography is also quality. Beyond that, the film more or less falls apart. The acting is, for lack of a better word, absolutely terrible. I was sighing with relief everytime one of the few actors who managed mediocrity came onscreen. Julian Sands as the Phantom is flat, not surprising for an actor who fell off the face of the earth ten years ago. Andrea di Stefano as his rival Raoul is neither good nor bad, but certainly inexperienced. Asia Argento as the singer is disappointing compared to some of her other performances - but as one reviewer noted, she always seems to be holding back when working for her father.

The biggest problem I had with it was the hideous line dubbing. At least I _hope_ some of those lines were dubbed. Another problem is just how quickly the movie takes things for granted. Almost before I had time to take my popcorn out of the microwave and sit down, the singer and the phantom were madly in love and communicating psychically. Yes, psychically, another new idea that is interesting of its own right but doesn't work because it is presented far too suddenly and with very little supporting detail.

Overall . . . it has its moments. Those moments could have made for a very refreshing look at the Phantom story, as well as a darn good movie. Unfortunately, it managed to do only some of the former, and none of the latter.
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