The Movie Report
Volume 56

#209 - 210
September 21, 1999 - September 24, 1999

all movies are graded out of four stars (****)

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

#210 September 24, 1999 by Michael Dequina


Double Jeopardy poster Double Jeopardy (R) **
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
Double Jeopardy boasts a hook that is killer--literally. A woman is framed her husband's murder and is accordingly sentenced to prison. While in the pen, she discovers that her husband is, in fact, alive and kicking. Informed of the "double jeopardy" law--that is, that no person can be tried for the exact same crime twice--she decides to serve her time and, once she's released, really off her not-so-dear hubby. After all, no officer of the law can touch her for committing a crime she has already "committed," no?

The few times I saw the trailer for Double Jeopardy, the clip where the woman in question, Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd), is told about double jeopardy by a fellow inmate (Roma Maffia), was greeted with hearty applause. And during my screening of the film, that same scene, in its complete form, was met with the same approval. But that's just five minutes in a film that lasts at least 100, and in time it becomes clear that the hook is all there is to Double Jeopardy, with nothing equally as interesting or surprising left to fill in the blanks.

The presence of Judd in the lead does go a long way in keeping the film watchable. Libby breaks her parole in Washington state and tracks down her deceitful husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood) all the way down to New Orleans, Judd is never less than believable, and as such there is little difficulty buying into the often-preposterous proceedings. Also contributing to the urgency is Tommy Lee Jones, whose strongly Fugitive-esque role as parole officer Travis Lehman is indeed one he can play in his sleep, but that doesn't mean that he's any less entertaining.

With the actors doing the best they can, the blame for this less-than-thrilling thriller falls on director Bruce Beresford and writers David Weisberg and Douglas S. Cook. From the premise, it's quite obvious how the film's going to end. After all, can you imagine just how let down the audience would feel if she doesn't commit the dirty deed? (And if the film didn't end that way, a test screening would have surely changed that.) So it's up to the filmmakers to flesh out the whole, and all they come up with is the idea of lost children. In an obvious effort to keep Libby from being too coldblooded, her main motive to find her husband is not to even the score, but to see her son again; to add some sort of bonding point between her and Lehman, he's saddled with an arbitrary back story where his own daughter was taken away from him after a DUI infraction. The more action-oriented "suspense" points that come along the way aren't much more effective. One too many scenes has Libby smash up a car, and one critical scene down the stretch has the villain committing the mistake made by Austin Powers' Dr. Evil--that is, assuming the heroine is left for dead when it would be much easier to make quick work of her.

But most people won't think of these things while watching Double Jeopardy, and the film may end up sufficiently entertaining audiences. However, it must be said that while there was some clapping at the end of the film, the applause was nothing compared to that which greeted the "double jeopardy" scene. It just goes to show that while a great hook does count for something, it takes a lot more to reel an audience in.

Get Bruce! poster Get Bruce! (R) ***
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
Bruce Vilanch. You may not know the name, but you certainly know his work--especially if you've watched the Academy Awards in recent years. Ever laugh hard at one of Whoopi's quips? Ever tap your toe to one of Billy's uproarious opening production number parodies? Yes, that is the work of the incomparable Mr. Vilanch.

Get Bruce! is documentarian Andrew J. Kuehn's tribute to the heretofore unheralded talent of Vilanch, whose wit appears to be behind just about every awards show and every major comics' routine. In addition to Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, Vilanch has written for Robin Williams (who not so surprisingly steals the show during his interview in the film), Bette Midler, among others, and Kuehn spends a good deal of time showing Vilanch's writing process. A lot of that process entails getting to know the person for whom he writes, for each word is tailor-made for the peformer's personality. And we see that has forged some lasting relationships that go beyond work and into the realm of friendship, as evidenced by the cameraderie between Vilanch and his "clients," and the genuine affection they show for him in their interview segments.

Get Bruce! is just as much a tribute to Vilanch's personality as it is his talent. He is a true eccentric, with a warped wit to go with his strange appearance: beefy, bearded, and always wearing a T-shirt, regardless of the occasion. Vilanch's ebullient manner is obviously a big reason why everyone wants, to borrow the film's title, to get Bruce, and his unconventional charm also wins over the audience with little difficulty.

And, in turn, so does the film, which seems to go by even more quickly than its brief 72 minute running time. One does wish that, like Vilanch, there was a bit more meat on Get Bruce!'s bones; while there is some perfunctory information on his background (including an extended interview with his mother), not a whole lot of insight is given into what exactly makes Vilanch tick, what shaped him into the person he's become. But that's not the point. Kuehn's point is to pay tribute to that person Vilanch has become, to raise the curtain on someone whose abilities have long remained hiding backstage. With Get Bruce!, it's likely that Bruce Vilanch is in the limelight to stay.

Mumford poster Mumford (R) **
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
Loren Dean is Mumford, the leading psychiatrist in the small town that shares his name. To paraphrase the press notes, while Mumford the town has its share of secrets, Mumford the shrink has the biggest of all. This secret, treated in the film as a surprise but divulged by the film's advertising campaign, is simple: Mumford is no licensed psychotherapist.

So who is Mumford, exactly? While writer-director Lawrence Kasdan comes up with a strangely convoluted backstory, it boils down to one simple thing: he's a nice guy. And what is Mumford, exactly? Simply a nice film. But that's not as much of a compliment as it sounds.

This light ensemble comedy is pleasant to watch, and a lot of that ease can be traced to the film's appealing ensemble cast, namely its standout players. Hope Davis shines as Sofie Crisp, the chronically-fatigued patient for whom Mumford develops an unprofessional attraction. Jason Lee is, to borrow his character's catchphrase, "far out" as another of Mumford's patients, Skip Skipperton, a young billionaire with a knack for skateboarding (a characteristic that gives Lee the opportunity to flaunt the skills that won him a number of international titles in his pre-acting career). Alfre Woodard radiates an inviting warmth as diner owner Lily, who is also Mumford's landlord.

I make no mention of Dean, and that is not an accidental oversight. There is nothing particularly wrong with this performance, and his gentle demeanor goes a long way in making the audience believe that people would want to open up to him. It's just that as a screen presence, Dean is completely faceless, which makes him a perfect match for his character, which similarly has neither quirks nor a distinct identity. And that's the film's central flaw; the only thing that is certain about Mumford is, as mentioned before, that he's a nice guy. While that indeed makes for a likable protagonist, that doesn't make for a terribly interesting one.

The same can be said of the film's trite point. There are a couple of other (and bonafide) shrinks in town, Dr. Ernest Delbanco (David Paymer) and Dr. Phyllis Sheeler (Jane Adams), but more people turn to Mumford. Not only is he easier to talk to, here's the kicker--unlike those two, he actually helps people. Yes, the message of this film is the painfully obvious: Mumford may not have a license, but his therapy works, and that's what matters.

The banality of Mumford wouldn't have mattered all that much if the film had enough laughs, but those are in short supply. Most come from a running gag involving the television show Unsolved Mysteries, and the film's most comically promising character, a slimy lawyer played by Martin Short, is barely a presence in the film. So what's left are one half of an interesting romance (the beguiling Sofie deserves someone with a bit more zest than Mumford) and a handful of smiles. Nice, yes. But nothing all that especially memorable.


Blast from the Past DVD Blast from the Past (PG-13) movie review
Movie: ** 1/2; Disc: ***
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack!
I wasn't much of a fan of this strange Brendan Fraser-Alicia Silverstone romantic comedy during its theatrical run, and I still cannot say that I really like the film. However, after a couple of more viewings, the film's modest charms have grown on me a bit more (hence the bumped up rating). New Line's adorable DVD undoubtedly factored into my added enjoyment. Though not one of the entries in the studio's "Platinum Series," this disc does feature as many supplemental features as some other studios' deluxe editions. Included in addition to the usual cast/crew bios and theatrical trailer are a number of DVD-ROM accessible features, such as screenplay and a trivia game. Accessible on a regular DVD player is the "Love Meter" game, which is supposed to measure one's romantic ability. It's as cheesy as it sounds, and its only apparent purpose is to serve as a gratuitous DVD extra, but it is in line with the disc's cutesy vibe (reinforded by the bouncy animated menus) are film's off-kilter sense of humor. (New Line Home Video)

Heat DVD Heat (R) movie review
Movie: *** 1/2; Disc: ** 1/2
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | Blu-ray! | VHS! | Soundtrack!
Michael Mann's "Los Angeles crime saga" was one of 1995's most acclaimed films--not to mention it featured the first on-screen meeting of acting gods Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. So coming from Warner Bros.--who, along with sister company New Line, is arguably the leader in quality DVD presentation--one would expect a bit more imagination and effort in the DVD package than there is. Granted, the film is riveting enough on its own to not need too many extras (and film-to-disc transfer is exquisite in sight and sound), but the virtual lack thereof can't help but be disappointing: all there is are the film's three different theatrical trailers. One would hope for at least a spiffy animated menu like many other WB titles, but, alas, there are generic still screens. (Warner Home Video)

Rock-a-Doodle DVD Rock-a-Doodle (G)
Movie: *; Disc: ***
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack! | Novelization!
Don Bluth's 1992 musical is one of feature animation's greatest fiascoes. The problem lies not so much with the story--though it isn't exactly a keeper. Chanticleer (voice of Glen Campbell), a singing rooster, discovers that his voice does not, in fact, cause the sun to rise as he thought, so he runs away from his farm to the big city; there, he hits it big as, ahem, an Elvis impersonator. When a devastating flood hits his old farm, his friends try to lure him back. Adding a needless complication to the story is the presence of Edmund (Toby Scott Ganger), a flesh-and-blood boy whose mother is reading him the story of Chanticleer. Somehow, some way, Edmund gets sucked into Chanticleer's world, eventually morphing into an animated cat.

The big problem is Bluth's direction. His usually strong artwork isn't up to snuff; the colors are dull and do not stand as enough of a contrast to Edmund's live action world. Some problems can be attributed to plain sloppiness; the live action/animation compositing is seam-filled, and the name "Chanticleer" is pronounced a number of different ways throughout the film. And then there's just a matter of simple common sense. The film is a musical, and as such, the song numbers should be a highlight; more often than not, however, Bluth has a narrator chime in with exposition in the middle of a song, killing any enjoyment to be had.

As bad as the movie is, HBO did a nice job with the DVD presentation. The sunny animated menus boast vibrant colors not seen anywhere during the feature presentation, and the theatrical trailer is included. The most enjoyable extras are the foreign language tracks; somehow Chanticleer's story packs a campier kick when he croons in Spanish or French. (HBO Home Video)

The Thin Red Line DVD The Thin Red Line (R) full movie review
Movie: ****; Disc: ***
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack! | Novel! | Book on Tape!
Director Terrence Malick is notorious for his privacy, and that quality has extended to the much-awaited DVD release of last year's unjustly underappreciated WWII epic--this is about as no-frills a disc as one can get, with not even a theatrical trailer to count as an extra. Fox did, however, manage to squeeze in one enhancement: a separate section of audio tracks of Melanesian choir music heard in the film. It's basically a plug for a spinoff soundtrack of Melanesian music, but it's a welcome mood-setter. Not that the film needs any help to set its melancholy mood of despairing introspection--certainly not on DVD, where the lush greens of John Toll's Oscar-nominated cinematography are even more brightly intoxicating than they were on the big screen, and Hans Zimmer's also-nominated score is just as haunting. (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets and Concessions | Dealflicks

#209 September 21, 1999 by Michael Dequina


B. Monkey poster B. Monkey (R) **
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Screenplay! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
He is Alan (Jared Harris), elementary school teacher by day, volunteer hospital disc jockey by night. She is Beatrice (Asia Argento), who, when not sitting at a desk for a nondescript company, is the best jewel thief in London. Somehow, some way, these two fall in love. Which leads to the question--why?

B. Monkey, named for the heroine's criminal moniker, only satisfactorily answers one half of that question. It is easy to see why Alan would be so taken with Beatrice when he first spots her in a pub--she is an exotic Italian beauty, and the sexy spunk that Alan discovers once he gets to know her just adds to her allure. In a sense, it is also fairly easy to understand why Beatrice would initially be drawn to Alan. Tired of the criminal life, Beatrice wants to go straight, and the square Alan presents the ultimate act of rebellion against rebellion.

Their romance shows Beatrice the joy of a normal life, but it does not convince the audience quite so easily. Chalk it up to Alan and Harris' dry portrayal--he's nice and stable, all right, but did he have to be so boring? Beatrice's relationship with Alan may be more functional than that with her former roommates and partners-in-crime, drug dealer Paul (Rupert Everett) and his lover Bruno (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), but it's also considerably less interesting.

So it's no surprise that B. Monkey springs back to life whenever Paul and Bruno reenter the picture, and when Beatrice's ties with them pulls her back into the game. Of course, she goes along with it with great reluctance and hates every minute. However, it would have been more compelling if scripters Michael Thomas and Chloe King added a bit more conflict--that is, when put back in the pressure cooker, Beatrice felt some of the thrill that kept her in crime for so long. One would think she would, yet she doesn't, completely "cured" by Alan's love.

B. Monkey, director Michael Radford's follow-up to 1995's Il Postino, had been sitting on Miramax's shelf for the better part of two years, and that's more than likely due to the film's many differences with that beloved Oscar-winner. Aside from the obvious differences in tone and style, it is also, quite simply, just not nearly as effective a love story; it's a cold piece of machinery from a filmmaker whose last film moviegoers recall with great warmth.

Breakfast of Champions poster Breakfast of Champions (R) zero stars
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack! | Novel! | Book on CD! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
If you're debating whether or not to see Breakfast of Champions, ask yourself one simple question: do you want to see Nick Nolte in lingerie? The only people who would get much enjoyment from Alan Rudolph's chaotic adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel is the cross-section of the population with the unhealthy urge to see that unpleasant sight. Everyone else--and I'm hoping that's most people--would be wise to steer clear of this excrutiatingly unfunny mess.

Actually, though, the sight of Nolte in high heels is one of the more amusing things about this muddle, which focuses Dwayne Hoover (Bruce Willis), the owner of Dwayne Hoover's Exit 11 Motor Village in Midland City. Not only is he a huge success as a businessman, he's also something of a celebrity, his face made recognizable by an ongoing series of television commercials. With a nice home and family to boot, Dwayne appears to have it all the ingredients to be happy--yet he's not. His wife Celia (Barbara Hershey) is perpetually in a pill-induced haze; his son George (Lukas Haas) is a flamboyant lounge singer who goes by the stage name "Bunny." Not only that, the Environmental Protection Agency is on Dwayne's ass over a building development project. It's enough to send Dwayne on a nervous breakdown--that is, if he doesn't succeed in blowing his brains out first.

Meanwhile, Midland City is about to host a fine arts festival, and the guest of honor is one Kilgore Trout (Albert Finney), a writer who is far from the renowned author the festival's organizer (Buck Henry) was led to believe--in fact, he's a penniless hack who writes second-rate sci-fi that appears in porn magazines. His trek to Midland City is also a spiritual journey, one that reaches its apex after meeting Dwayne, who for some reason thinks that Trout will hold for him all of life's answers.

The above is already a longer plot synopsis than I usually give in my reviews, but, ironically, I have barely scratched the surface. I haven't yet mentioned Wayne Hoobler (Omar Epps), an ex-con with an obsessive admiration for the similarly-named Dwayne. Then there's the matter of Francine (Glenne Headly), Dwayne's devoted secretary. Not to mention Dwayne's employee and old friend Harry LeSabre (Nolte), the one with the secret penchant for cross-dressing. And so on. The film is essentially Dwayne's story, but too often Rudolph goes on distracting tangents with the eccentric peripheral players that one often wonders what the point is.

Rudolph does arrive at a point (more on that later), but it's blunted and obscured by his hyperactive approach to the material. The surreal visual style, complete with printed words flying through the air and into Dwayne's ears, is obviously meant to convey a sense of madness, but its bludgeoning nature is likely to make viewers mad. The actors are called on to act accordingly, resulting in some of the worst, most overdone work all of them have ever turned in. Willis fares best of all--but that's because his frozen expression of befuddled bewilderment mirrors that of the audience.

With such an aggressively outrageous atmosphere for nearly all of its running time, it comes as a shock when things suddenly turn serious, and Rudolph tries to make a statement. Unlike American Beauty (a film that Breakfast resembles in more than a few ways, to its great detriment), there isn't any palpably earnest undercurrent that would prepare the audience for the big shift. As such, the cartoony characters fail to win a sympathy that needs to be earned; and the film attempts, to no avail, to reach a profundity that it doesn't deserve.

Vonnegut's original novel is considered a classic, but it had been called unfilmable--the same that was said of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was disastrously committed to film last year by Terry Gilliam. With the similar failure of Breakfast of Champions, will Hollywood ever learn that books labeled "unfilmable" inevitably results in a film that is unwatchable? Likely not.

Sugar Town poster The Suburbans poster Sugar Town (R) ***
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
The Suburbans (R) 1/2*
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
For her follow-up to her underseen 1996 effort Grace of My Heart, director Allison Anders returns to the musical milieu explored in that film, albeit in a different time and place. Sugar Town, written and directed in tandem by Anders and Kurt Voss, is an exploration of the contemporary Los Angeles music scene by way of an Altman-esque tableau of interlocking characters and storylines. The central thread revolves around a comeback album being pitched by a once-big '80s rock band. As is the case with ensemble films such as this, each individual member has its own personal drama to deal with on his own. Clive (John Taylor) must deal with the sudden appearance of illegitimate son Nerve (Vincent Berry), much to the chagrin of his wife, Eva (Rosanna Arquette), an actress. Deluded, stuck-in-the-glam era Nick's (Michael Des Barres) policy of only sleeping with 20somethings (or younger) is tested when a wealthy 40something's (Beverly D'Angelo) potential financial backing rides on a roll in the hay. The third member, Jonesy (Martin Kemp), doesn't have much of a presence in the film, but that slack is picked up by other loosely connected characters. Guitarist Carl's (John Doe) fidelity to his very pregnant wife (Lucinda Jenney) is tested by an attraction to the fetching singer Rocio (Lumi Cavazos). Eva's production designer friend, Daisy (Ally Sheedy), desperately looks for true love as her new housekeeper, conniving singer Gwen (Jade Gordon), sets her sights on the band's producer Burt (Larry Klein) in her ongoing scheme to make it big.

Ensemble pieces are almost always uneven, with some storylines more engaging than others. Sugar Town is no exception. The Carl thread, which also encompasses his ne'er-do-well brother's (Richmond Arquette) attraction to his wife, isn't quite as much fun as, say, the Clive/Nerve/Eva storyline. But the lesser storylines are redeemed by the uniformly fine performances and the occasional bit of witty dialogue--making the film a fun, if lightweight, romp.

The same cannot be said of another film about a rock-'n-roll comeback, the terrible so-called comedy The Suburbans. The title is the name of a (fictional) one hit wonder '80s rock quartet, which is revived under the guidance of a young record exec named Cate (Jennifer Love Hewitt, in one of her better performances). The reluctant revival creates drama in each individual member's life. Rory (Tony Guma) and Gil (Will Ferrell) would rather concentrate on other things; the presence of Cate adds strain to Danny's (Donal Lardner Ward) relationship with his longtime girlfriend Grace (Amy Brenneman), who wants a lasting commitment. However, the womanizing Mitch (Craig Bierko) relishes the renewed time in the spotlight.

Unlike Sugar Town, where the lesser plot threads are evened out by more interesting ones, the focus in The Suburbans lies squarely on the film's least interesting character: Danny--hardly surprising, since Ward is also the director. The character with the second-most screen time is equally dull Rory--again, no surprise, since Guma co-wrote the script with Ward. Bierko and Ferrell give more colorful performances, but they are shoved into the background. Better than those two, however, is Brenneman, who is a refreshing breeze of believability amid the inanity; and the killer duo of Jerry and Ben Stiller, who deliver the film's only funny moments as Cate's father-son superiors at the record company. That the Stillers only have (at most) five minutes of total screen time shows how tedious and, worst of all, painfully laugh-free the rest of the film's scant running time is.

In Brief

For Love of the Game poster For Love of the Game (PG-13) ***
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack! | Score CD! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
Think of a cliché for either romance or sports movies, and chances are it turns up in this tale of aging big-league pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) reflecting on his career and his love for magazine writer Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) during one fateful game. The manager wants to bench Billy's longtime catcher buddy (John C. Reilly) because his batting average hasn't been up to par. Guess who gets a big hit down the stretch? Another teammate whose big blunder has been repeated ad nauseum on sports blooper reels gets his shot at vindication. And as far as romance goes, there's the old reliable scenario where Jane pays Billy a surprise visit--which, of course, happens to take place while he has a fetching young female over.

Yet somehow For Love of the Game works, and most of the credit goes to Costner, who is very much in his element on the baseball diamond. He and Preston are easily likable screen presences, and their convincing work together go a long way in keeping the audience interested and involved. Credit also goes to director Sam Raimi, who does a competent job juggling the love story and the baseball action. That said, I must say that it is somewhat sad to see Raimi, the once-maverick underground auteur whose prankster abandon guided the Evil Dead horror-comedy series, so completely sell out to the mainstream with this film, however admirable his work here is.

Love Stinks poster Love Stinks (R) * 1/2
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
With 3rd Rock from the Sun's French Stewart in the lead, it's hard to not think "sitcom" while watching this "un-romantic comedy"--but it's not like that writer-director Jeff Franklin does anything to lead one to believe one is watching a bonafide movie and not a sitcom blown up to feature proportions. As it happens, Stewart's character (along with co-star Bill Bellamy's), Seth, is a sitcom writer--which is what Franklin was before making this, his feature debut. Rather, that's what Franklin still is, for what passes for humor in this dark would-be comedy remains on the level of the tube. The plot has the commitment-shy Stewart's marriage-obsessed girlfriend Chelsea (Bridgette Wilson, voraciously, if broadly, sinking her teeth into her first major lead role) going off the deep end after he refuses to pop the question. The film could have been a nasty send-up of Fatal Attraction and its ilk, but instead the film is simply nasty, constantly going for the cheap, scatological gag and the obvious, groan-worthy one-liner. But more ruinous than the lack of laughs is Stewart and the character of Seth. Seth comes off as a selfish jerk, which is not helped at all my Stewart's smug presence. With such an unlikable "hero," it's hard not to root for Chelsea to go for the kill.


Children of Heaven poster Children of Heaven (PG) *** 1/2
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS!
This Iranian import is proof that it doesn't take an elaborate story to make a terrific film. Consider writer-director Majid Majidi's plot, which is simplicity itself. Nine-year-old Ali (Mir Farrokh Hashemian) loses his 7-year old sister Zahra's (Bahare Seddigi) only pair of shoes, and the film revolves around his efforts to recover her shoes or somehow get her a new pair; in the meantime, he devises a plan where the two alternately use his battered pair of sneakers. The film's understated poignance comes through the siblings' sweet and realistic relationship. The two don't always get along, but the genuine care and love between them is made palpable by the astonishing child actors, in particular the vividly expressive Hashemian, whose immense charm is matched by their disarming talent. (Miramax Home Entertainment)

God Said, Ha! poster God Said, "Ha!" (PG-13) ***
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS! | Soundtrack! | Book!
Julia Sweeney's celebrated one-woman stage show wouldn't strike one as being ready for big-screen translation; after all, the show is essentially one long, tragicomic monologue about one tumultuous year in her life, during which her brother is dying from cancer, their parents move in, and Sweeney herself is diagnosed with the disease. Hence, it would be tempting for a director to jazz up the proceedings with flashy visual tricks, but Sweeney (who is also at the helm of the film) sticks with a straightforward approach, choosing to largely directly address the camera, which changes angles every so often. It's the right choice. Like with any conventional narrative film, what matters here is the content, and Sweeney's material is strong and compelling enough to stand on its own, without any bells and whistles. Although it gets off to a slow start, her story quietly gathers momentum as it goes along, becoming increasingly poignant--but never depressing, thanks to Sweeney's sharp--and, it appears, therapeutic--wit. (Miramax Home Entertainment)

Razor Blade Smile DVD Razor Blade Smile (R/unrated) ** 1/2
BUY on Amazon: Poster! | DVD! | VHS!
With the tagline "Part assassin. Part Seductress. All vampire," one knows going in that this is not a contender for the next AFI list (that the film is a British production and therefore wouldn't qualify anyhow is beside the point). So one must approach this horror/action cheapie from the right angle--as a B-grade exploitation film, and for most of its running time, rookie writer-director Jake West clearly knows what he's doing. The film follows Lilith Silver (Eileen Daly) who keeps herself amused during her long, undead nights by acting as a contract killer, and along the way West doesn't skimp on the exploitation staples: amateurish acting, sex, nudity, and violence, sometimes efficiently blending all three together (particularly in one lengthy, blood-soaked lesbian sex scene). The refreshing twists that West lends the campy affair is a slick, if derivative, visual style (John Woo is an obvious influence); and a self-aware sense of humor that mocks vampire movie conventions (one running gag has Lilith debunking cinematic myths about bloodsuckers in her voiceover). But West's cleverness gets the better of him in the final minutes, tacking on an arbitrary twist that, quite simply, trashes the trashy enjoyment of all that preceded, including a rousing climactic swordfight. Stop the tape once that scene is over. (A-Pix Entertainment; DVD also available)

Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets and Concessions | Dealflicks


Subscribe to RSS headline updates from:
Powered by FeedBurner


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites
The Movie Report Archive/© Michael Dequina
All images and multimedia files are copyright their respective copyright holders and no rights are given or implied

Buy my book 50 FILMMAKERS!
Presented by A-Frame Studios

Buy my book 50 FILMMAKERS!

Driis Music


Green Door Pictures

Please keep The Movie Report/
Mr. Brown's Movie Site alive
by generously submitting a PayPal donation.

Movie Ticket Deals, Discounts, Offers, & Coupons | Dealflicks

Shop Now!

buy Asian films on Blu-ray

Buy my books 50 FILMMAKERS & I AM HIP-HOP!

get cash back while shopping with Ibotta!

Search & Win

Please buy from my eBay Wish List

Film Flam Flummox

web log free