March 20, 2010

Roswell (1994)

Roswell takes an interesting theory about the government coverup of a flying saucer crash and makes it a bore without shedding any light on the actual incident one way or the other. Kyle MacLachlan, Martin Sheen, Dwight Yoakum and a host of well-known faces (if not names) do their best but the film just has no drama. If this story is, in fact, true a documentary would have been a better outlet.

March 18, 2010

Chapter Two (1979)

Chapter Two has not aged well despite the poster's proclamation of it being a very special movie from Neil Simon. James Caan is miscast as a Neil Simon type writer getting over the death of his first wife with shrill Marsha Mason as a Neil Simon type second wife (a role she played in real life before their divorce) and Valerie Harper as a Neil Simon type anorexic looking best friend. It's overlong and underwritten (by Neil Simon) but ends with a nice surprise as Marilyn McCoo sings the trite theme I'm On Your Side over the credits - not a good place for an audience to start taking notice of a film.

March 16, 2010

The Player (1992)

Only Robert Altman could make The Player, a film that has all the elements needed to market a film successfully (suspense, laughter, violence, hope, heart, nudity, sex, happy ending and no reality) but is quirkily unmarketable because it has none of the elements needed to market a film successfully - except big stars in cameos (Cher, Julia Roberts, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Pollack, Joel Grey, Bruce Willis, Sally Kellerman and Susan Sarandon to name a few). Tim Robbins, Greta Scaachi and Whoopi Goldberg are the real actors that spearhead the plot which contains a mystery (that is solved only if you pay real close attention) within a comedy that is not meant to be laugh out loud funny. Reality is so entwined with fantasy though that you can't help getting caught up in Altman's love affair with Hollywood.

March 15, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The problem with Alice in Wonderland is that its interest lies primarily in the computer generated images and not the story (which apes other films like The Golden Compass or the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Helena Bonham Carter is quite good (although her head is most distracting), Anne Hathaway seems a bit lost, Johnny Depp has a lisp that disappears and reappears and Mia Wasikowska is fine although someone might've mentioned to Tim Burton that aging the main character ten years in a beloved children's tale doesn't endear itself to those who know the original (see Diana Ross in The Wiz). It wasn't horrible but it certainly wasn't worth the price of admission either.

March 12, 2010

Oliver (1968)

More than forty years after winning the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director (Carol Reed) Oliver is still tuneful, colorful, and frightful. Anchored by commanding performances from Ron Moody and Jack Wild (Oscar nominees), Shani Wallis, Mark Lester (whose singing was dubbed by a girl) and especially Oliver Reed (hired to play the dark, villainous Bill Sykes by his director uncle), it's a wonderful journey to a lost time. It is rather long so turn off all the lights, shut off the phone and put a sign on the door that you are not to be disturbed and lose yourself in Charles Dickens' story of Oliver Twist enhanced with an excellent cachet of songs by Lionel Bart (including It's A Fine Life, As Long As He Needs Me, Who Will Buy, Oom Pah Pah, Consider Yourself, Food Glorious Food, Reviewing The Situation and Pick a Pocket Or Two).

March 11, 2010

Cabin Fever (2002)

I'm not sure if Cabin Fever is a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic, a treatise on society's transformation into selfishness or a horror film about a latent skin virus with no ulterior motive but it's interesting nonetheless. It offers the usual inbred redneck hicks, unethical mountain cops and partying college students so is not very original but an appealing cast (including Cheryl Ladd's daughter Jordan) does manage to bring it to life. Eli Roth should be proud of his directorial debut and it does imply one important point we should all remember for the coming viral apocalypse: keep a bottle of Listerine on hand.

March 9, 2010

The Kid Stays In The Picture (2002)

In his own words and with clips from the films he produced, Robert Evans tells his own story in The Kid Stays In The Picture. It's a fascinating story with many juicy Hollywood stories and, despite a seemingly huge ego, Evans endears himself. Based on his autobiography, it's one of the few movies I've seen that makes me want to go back and read the book.

March 7, 2010

The Funhouse (1981)

The Funhouse is a mundane horror film directed by Tobe Hooper - he of the much less mundane (and much more original) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 version). Seven years after the classic Hooper has remained static in his filmmaking knowledge; in fact, he might have lost some precious abilities because this clinker about four kids trapped in a carnival funhouse has no thrills or blood. It's also badly acted except of course for the always-the-same-but-always entertaining Sylvia Miles playing, what else, a prostitute.

March 6, 2010

Definitely Maybe (2008)

Definitely Maybe is definitely a wonderfully romantic movie; maybe even one of the best I've seen. Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin have great chemistry as the father (the former) telling his daughter (the latter) the story of how he met her mother (either Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher or Rachel Weisz). The story, though not that suspenseful, is endearing and the characters are fleshed out by some nice comic performances especially a small yet pivotal role played by Kevin Kline.

March 3, 2010

Call Me Madam (1953)

Ethel Merman pulls out the stops as a pastiche of Groucho Marx and Mae West (while keeping it all Ethel) in Call Me Madam. Ethel, Donald O'Connor, George Sanders [quelle surprise!] and Vera-Ellen sing and dance the hell out of the Irving Berlin songs [What Chance Have I With Love, The International Rag, It's A Lovely Day Today, The Hostess With The Mostes' On The Ball, The Best Thing For You and the phenomenal Merman/O'Connor duet (I Wonder Why) You're Just In Love] which together with the art direction, costumes and exuberance make this film intoxicating. The story line is somewhat slight but it has an emotional core that resonates and, of course, it has the Merm.

March 2, 2010

The Ice Storm (1997)

I thought The Ice Storm was going to be a first-rate drama but it all seems very calculated. Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, et al. turn up the heat on the acting skills like it's an important film but aye, there's the rub - everyone is acting. Too much of that heat definitely melted this ice.