FOXFIRE - SHE'S THE ONE - SOLO - BASQUIAT
THE TRIGGER EFFECT - A VERY BRADY SEQUEL - THE FAN
Based on the best-selling novel by Joyce Carol Oates, "Foxfire" is the story of four young women drawn together when a young, James Dean-like female drifter comes walking into town one day.
Their encounter with this enigmatic young woman sets off a chaotic series of events that, first, empowers them all, then, transforms them forever.
Making her directorial debut, Annette Haywood-Carter introduces an ensemble cast of newcomers, led by Hedy Burress, from TV's "Boston Common," and Angelina Jolie as the mysterious drifter, Legs Sadovsky.
Basically, this is a 90's feminist version of the 1953 western classic "Shane."
This telling by first time feature director Annette Haywood-Carter isn't George Stevens, but it is a nicely mannered, evenly paced little ensemble work with likable young actors in the lead and main supporting roles. No great performances, though.
Hedy Burress' Maddy reps the Van Heflin character, while Angelina Jolie's Legs Sadovsky is a combination of Shane and Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name. Jolie is pretty and sexy and the camera complements her very well.
Sarah Rosenberg is notable as the ditzy, boy-crazy member of the quintet.
The strong point of the film is the excellent cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel, who also did "The Trigger Effect." He uses close-ups with lots of texture to visually very nice effect in the female bonding scenes.
One thing that is problematic with the story is the depiction of virtually all male and authority figures as vile slime. My feelings were hurt and all you adults out there are scum!
Otherwise, while formulaic, it's not confused. It stays pretty focused in its intent and it paces OK.
I recommend it for its target of mature teen girls and young women. Its principle cast of attractive young actresses, with nudity, also will help it as a date film.
I'd certainly go see "Foxfire" instead of "Solo."
I give it a B-
SHE'S THE ONE
"She's The One" is "The McMullen Brothers" director Edward Burns sophomore effort, again about brothers of Irish decent living in New York dealing with the mysteries of women and love. Mickey, played by Burns, is happy driving a cab and on a romantic impulse marries a fare, Hope, played by Burns' real life girlfriend Maxine Bahns. His brother Francis, played by Mike McGlone, is a driven Wall Streeter who's cheating on his wife Rene, played by Jennifer Anniston with his brother Mickey's ex-fiance Heather, played by Cameron Diaz. Father Fitzpatrick, "Frasier"'s John Mahoney, is doing none too well with his own marriage, but steps in to offer his sons advice.
No sophomore slump for Edward Burns -- if anything he shows a more assured hand and turns in a more professionally slick film the second time around. While he essentially covers very similar ground in this bigger-budgetted production, his writing continues to be crisp, playful and true and his characters fully defined.
Burns is a natural as the underachieving but decent brother. McGlone, so funny as the conflicted Catholic brother in "McMullen," manages to stay empathetic as the conniving cheating Fitzgerald. John Mahoney is solid as the father who puts on a gruff front (he likes to refer to his sons as girls) but ends up bewildered when his own selfishness drives his wife away.
Burns hasn't stinted on his female characters either. Although their men don't seem to understand what makes them tick, their director/screenwriter does (or at least had the good sense to utilize the actresses' input). Jennifer Anniston is the first of the "Friends" cast to make a wise screen debut. Her Rene is sad and funny as she tries to understand her husband's rejection and tries to win back his affections. Her retort when he finally has the courage to ask for a divorce is the funniest line in the film. Maxine Bahns, who was very wooden in "McMullen," is much warmer and more interesting as the mysterious and carefree Hope. Cameron Diaz gives a nicely shaded performance as the tough on the outside, vulnerable on the inside Heather -- she really makes the tension palpable as she tries to seduce Mickey even as she wears his brother's engagement ring. Amanda Peet and Leslie Mann also carve out interesting characters as Rene's sister and Hope's best friend in smaller roles.
"She's the One" is a truly funny and warm romantic comedy. It's a real charmer.
Edward Burns is both a talented director and a likable actor. He showed both talents to good effect in both "The Brothers McMullen" and "She's The One."
Where Burns does not come up to the same level is his writing. In the former film, it didn't matter. The film itself is so bright and fresh that you can forgive Burns' lack of understanding of male-female relationships.
In "She's The One," his sophomore effort, his script has the same problem. I was not drawn to the relationships depicted. They didn't ring true or have real chemistry.
To Burns' and his actors credit, most of the characters are fully developed and likable.
Mike McGlone as Burns' brother tends to steal the show with his goofy guy charm.
Jennifer Anniston is the big surprise here. Of the "Friends" crew who have made forays onto the big screen, she's the smartest. As a member of a talented ensemble, she doesn't have to carry the movie. Instead she spends her time putting a very good, honest spin on the tough, tough role of the beleaguered, misunderstood wife. She can act.
Cameron Diaz is OK as the femme fatale, but I would rather have seen her in the role of Burns' wife.
Speaking of Maxine Bahns. She is vastly better than she was in "The Brothers McMullen," but I still find her not up to the talents of the rest of the cast.
As the film's anchor-point, John Mahoney, a character actor with a flair for comedy, as seen in TV's "Frazier," is wonderful here. His scenes with his sons are funny and, to a point, believable.
For his second film, Burns basically retreads the ground walked upon in "The Brothers McMullen." He's a talented young filmmaker, but he should concentrate on directing, rather than screenwriting.
"She's The One," all in all, is a nice and pleasant effort that gets Burns past his sophomore test. I look forward to his future work and recommend this one. Good date flick for both genders.
I give it a B.
"Solo" (Mario Van Peebles) is the perfect soldier.
He is a killing machine and a master of all forms of combat.
He has no family, friends or birth certificate. No Social Security number or medical benefits.
He does have the ability to think and learn, and has learned the value of life, which puts him on a collision course with his creators, personified by Col. Madden (William Sadler).
The battle between the two will determine the fate of an entire village whose people taught Solo what it means to be a man.
Well, Mario Van Peebles has finally found a role to fully befit his acting talents.
"Solo" is about an emotionless, expressionless machine created by the military-industrial complex. Casting of the emotionless and expressionless Mario Van Peebles may be considered by some to be the big casting coup of the year. Not by me, but, maybe, by some.
But, let's get to the movie, itself.
The military, in the guise of "Northern Exposure"'s Barry Corbin repeatedly boast and complains about Solo's $2 BILLION price tag, then sends the obviously maniacal Col. Madden (William Sadler) into the jungle to capture the renegade robot. Like that's going to work. I don't think so.
Along the way, "Solo" succeeds in ripping off just about every film of it's kind you can imagine, and then some:
"Robocop," "Predator," "Frankenstein," "Short Circuit," "Starman," "The Seven Samurai" (or, some say, "Yojimbo"), "Apocalypse, Now," "Terminator II" and "Hercules," to name a few.
You'd think that this level of rip-off would at least afford some entertainment for the 93 minute run time of "Solo." It doesn't. It simply plods along to it's inevitable, uninvolving and pretty uninteresting end.
Supporting cast is dull. Even the potentially good bad guy William Sadler is wasted here. The rest I won't even mention.
I'm giving it a D+ and probably doth praise it too much.
I hardly feel able to get up the energy to review this film, because I'm sure it'll be gone from theaters faster than I can write it.
"Solo" is one of those ludicrous movies that's only enjoyable by how bad it manages to be. We're talking every cliche in the book here, and more movies and action film conventions ripped off than I could mention. I mean, seriously, they had the nerve to copy the famous reverse film head-rising-from-the-water from "Apocalypse Now"! When the bad guy approaches at the climax I was compelled to mutter "here comes the TC2000." An android with computerized knowledge of all languages needs to translate into English to conveniently create subtitles. And what was with the Mexican villager who looked like Tommy Chong's doppleganger?
When you look at your watch 30 minutes into a film you know you're in trouble. When the press kit describes the director as a full time bartender, part time cab driver you hope for some unintentional comedy. While not quite at the camp awfulness level of this spring's "The Substitute," "Solo" offered enough sheer stupidity to illicit a couple of laughs. "Solo" also passed my 'F' rating test -- it was in focus and you could hear it.
"Basquiat" is a biographical film about Jean-Michel Basquiat, an early 80's artist championed by Andy Warhol who began his career by authoring witty and oblique grafitti under the name Samo. Jeffrey Wright, a Tony award winner for "Angels in America," heads a powerhouse cast that also includes David Bowie as Warhol, Dennis Hopper as wealthy collector Bruno Bischofberger, and Gary Oldman as a fictional representation of Julian Schnabel, a painter contemporary of Basquiat's making his directorial debut with this film.
My appetite was really whetted for "Basquiat." Not only did the film take place in the New York Warhol art world, but the cast was to die for -- the actors I've already mentioned, and also Michael Wincott, so terrific as the villain in "The Crow," Benicio del Toro, so terrific in "The Usual Suspects" and Courtney Love, so terrific at making headlines. While "Basquiat" didn't live up to what I'd hoped for, it's still an interesting and worthy film, if flawed.
Basquiat became known as the James Dean of the art world. He was the first black painter to gain great fame, but he burned out quickly by becoming a notorious womanizer and heroin addict. While it's admirable that Schnabel wanted to celebrate Basquiat's life, he presents Basquiat as an innocent who was led by the hand by the wolves of the art world. The heroin that took his life the age of 27 is barely touched upon.
"Basquiat" opens with narration by critic Rene Ricard, played by Michael Wincott in a truly terrific performance, discussing the fear of modern day art critics that they might be staring at Van Gogh's ear. Later in the film, Warhol, while collaborating on a piece with Basquiat, whines that he doesn't even know what's good anymore. Could Schnabel be offering that the denizens of the art community so fear missing the next-big-thing that they end up creating it?
Besides Wincott's great turn as Ricard, I most enjoyed Bowie's take on Warhol. He managed to put a hilarious spin on Warhol's stunted mutterings. Schnabel used painterly broadstrokes on a lot of the other characters in the film who are actually composites of many real life characters -- Claire Forlani as the first girlfriend, Courtney Love as the groupie, Benicio del Toro as the friend and Christopher Walken as the interviewer. And while Jeffrey Wright isn't bad as Basquiat, I never felt I was getting a truly deep depiction of the man.
There are some beautiful images in "Basquiat." Basquiat rides a bike through Central Park looking upwards at the treetops. Basquiat looks up at a skyline of brownstone roofs to see a surfer riding a tremendous wave. Basquiat lovingly wraps a pink scarf around his girlfriend's head and calls her his angel. The soundtrack is also a unique blend of music featuring The Psychedlic Furs, Bowie, Tom Waitts and the Rolling Stones.
Watching the clips and trailer for "Basquiat," I had hopes that it would be another avant-garde classic like "Sid and Nancy." Unfortunately, it doesn't have the linear story telling and visual/audio impact of the latter, nor the over the top lead perf's.
"Basquiat" is an interesting, if flatly told, story about a man who some considered the Van Gogh of his time.
Jean-Michel Basquiat's real story is about a talented young genius's rapid rise to fame and his crash and death because of heroin.
"Basquiat," the movie, doesn't really present, very well, the young artist's vast influence on the art community. As a matter of fact, the film presents so little of Jean-Michel's rise to prominence that it relies on Christopher Walken as a TV interviewer to even give the audience a clue to the depth and breadth of Basquiat's work and popularity.
Jeffrey Wright is OK as the artist, but there is little character development of Jean-Michel. At the end of the film, he's pretty much the same person as at the start. I would expect that someone propelled throu the art world stratosphere would show some change over a seven year period.
Supporting cast is top notch with cameos and celebrity supporting characters galore: David Bowie, Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman are wonderful, with Bowie giving a drolly humorous turn to his Andy Warhol.
Michael Wincott's ("The Crow," "Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves") Rene Ricard, as poet, critic and first appreciator of Basquiat, is outstanding. He gives his character a three dimensional complexity that make me want to keep him in mind for an Oscar come the end of the year.
Set design is, as you'd expect, artistic, showing the painstaking care of the artist takes in constructing chaos into art.
"Basquiat" doesn't really tell me who the artist is and what motivates him. It was fun watching those characters on his periphery, though.
I give "Basquiat" a B.
THE TRIGGER EFFECT
Everyday, for all of us, the lights go on, the television plays and the telephone rings. Until, one day, technology crashes and the lights go out, the television stops and the phone goes dead.
This is the premise for our next film, "The Trigger Effect," by writer-director David Koepp, starring Kyle MacLachlan and Elisabeth Shue as an uptight young couple plunged into fear and darkness by a massive, unexplained power outage impacting God-knows-how-many people.
Also cast into the equation is Dermot Mulroney as the couples single friend, Joe, invited by Shue's Annie to join them in waiting out the power failure.
"The Trigger Effect" is one of those weird Hollywood aberrations that crops up every once in a while -- it's a fictional story whose release parallels a real-life occurrence of the event depicted: the nine state power outage of a few weeks ago could have been a PR event for the film. The trick is, the film had to be in production BEFORE the real-life occurrence.
One example that comes to mind is "The China Syndrome"'s released at the time of the Three Mile Island disaster in the early 80's. I'd be curious to see if anyone can think of any other films that meet this criteria.
Back to "The Trigger Effect": This is a fair thriller with some terrific moments, but the pay back is not up to these moments.
The story, while intriguing in concept, is handled in a pedestrian manner in the hands of first-time director David Koepp. He plays it safe in both the story, which he wrote, and his direction - probably not a bad idea first time out. Fortunately, he had first rate cinematography and editing which help to create some spikes on the film appreciation meter.
One scene, in particular, (the most powerful and my favorite of the film) features Michael Rooker as a desperate man who's simply looking for a ride. The camera work and editing, coupled with Rooker's overwhelming performance, really knocked my socks off. This scene, and a couple more, makes me recommend the film, marginally.
The main performances are ambiguously drawn, so there's no real enmity felt for any of them. Their problems, we hope, are not our problems.
Elisabeth Shue's Annie nicely displays an undercurrent of sultry frustration with her life and husband early in the film, but this dissipates as the film progresses. She becomes the dependable, AND handy with a shotgun, wife standing by her man. Not a stretch following her fabulous perf in "Leaving Las Vegas."
Kyle MacClachlan and Dermot Mulroney are fair as the husband and friend, respectively. No Oscar noms here.
One notable support performance is given by Richard T. Jones as a man who own self-preservation parallels and, ultimately, intersects the principle characters.
It's a fair effort, but the few treats it contains don't fully sustain it.
It's 98 minutes long and I give it a C+.
"The Trigger Effect" is another riff on that famous Twilight Zone episode about the bomb shelter crossed with a road movie crossed with a love triangle. That said, it's not half bad and has some truly memorable moments.
Kyle MacLachlan is the successful, but maybe too safe husband to wild- eneath-the-surface Elizabeth Shue. An interesting opening (which plays like a rudeness relay which finally gets passed to the married couple as two guys talk during a film and insult Shue when she asks them to 'ssshh') nicely defines MacLachlan's reluctance to take action and Shue's vague dissatisfaction with him. Their tentative dynamic is shaken when a power failure of unknown magnitude causes Shue to invite a blue collar pal, played by Dermot Mulroney, to stay with them and ride out the unnatural disaster "like a pajama party."
While sexual tension mounts indoors, neighborhood tension builds to the point that the three set out on the road to head to Shue's parents' house wondering how they will procure more gas along the way.
MacLachlan is quite good as the average upwardly mobile husband whose frustration and rage at his wife's dissatisfaction simmers just beneath the surface. You can practically see him reach deep inside to come to grips with truly terrifying situations that require more gut-level bravery than he's had to come up with in the past. Shue puts some interesting shadings on her character as well -- safe within her family unit, a concerned mom, but sexually dissatisified. Mulroney is the wild card - he seems like a decent sort, but he's got a hair trigger and also feels a lot of resentment towards his more successful friend.
The storyline is nicely handled for the most part -- watch for that initial movie talker -- he'll continue to show up throughout the film in very surprising but totally believable ways. This was one of my favorite aspects of "The Trigger Effect." Also quite good and scary is Michael Rooker as a volatile guy out on the road trying to find gas.
The film has a lot to say about human nature -- people seem to try and reason out the siutation more when the stakes are higher, yet petty aggravations make people act like mad dogs.
I'd rate "The Trigger Effect" a little higher, except that the ending wasn't as fully satisfying as it should have been - seemed maybe a bit too abrupt. First time director David Koepp (screenwriter "Jurassic Park") shows a pretty assured hand throughout most of his film debut, however.
A VERY BRADY SEQUEL
The Bradys are still in the 70's but back in the 90's in "A Very Brady Sequel," the followup to their suprisingly popular feature film adaptation. Everyone reprises their roles from the first film with the addition of Tim Matheson, who plays Roy, the man who disrupts the Brady world by announcing that he's Carol's first husband who she believed died at sea. Carol's in a quandary, Mike gives lots of rambling Brady philosophies, Greg and Marcia's hormones begin to dance a duet, Alice makes meatloaf and Jan makes up a boyfriend.
The Bradys were a surprise the first time around and they're even more of a surprise in this sequel, having managed to keep enough of what made the first film funny and add in enough new interest to keep the sequel somewhat fresh.
I particularly enjoyed Gary Cole as Mike Brady more in this second outing. The screenwriters should also be lauded, as Dad Brady's rambling nonsensical lectures on Bradyness seemed more ever present and funny here. The sexual innuendos are also far more prominent and pretty funny -- whoever had the idea to have Greg and Marcia be attracted to each other should be given a medal as the new twist added some of the best laughs. It's a neat gag that within the Brady home a non-incestual relationship can be made to seem like incest (don't forget -- the Brady boys and girls existed BEFORE Mike and Carol got married). Also be forewarned that this Brady movie even has a psychedelic mushroom sequence.
The opening of the film made my heart sink -- it appeared to be a cheap 'Gilligan's Island' rip-off followed by the "evil person insinuates themselves to steal valuable object" standard sequel plot. But the film managed to turn the opening into a neat joke that came full circle in the ending moments. Injecting an outsider into the Brady home was really the only way to go this time around too - a device frequently used in such outsider sagas as "The Addams Family."
Be assured all turns out well in the end and you're given a good dose of laughs along the way, not to mention a couple of the sugary over the top song and dance numbers that only the Bradys can get away with in this day and age.
I don't have a whole bunch to say about this "Bunch." After all, it is a sequel to a light-weight remake of a rather inane 70's TV show, so I don't expect a lot of angst.
You get what you expect, and more:
Gary Cole's Mike brings his philosophies of life to the forefront more here.
The sexual innuendo, while apparent in the first film, is played out many more times here, and more crudely, too -- to the point where I'm having doubts about younger kids being taken to this -- unless you parents want to do some explaining to the more inquisitive children.
There's an inexplicable ongoing reference to incest between Greg and Marcia that makes no sense, since there's no biological connection between them. Not good homework by the filmmakers.
There are a number of cameos through the film, but drag queen RuPaul provides the funniest, plus we get a variation on the "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" line from the first film.
Overall, "A Very Brady Sequel" does succeed in keeping the kitch of the original alive, but, guys, this should do it for America's Favorite Family.
Fun while I watched, but twice is enough. I give "A Very Brady Sequel" a B-
Based on the novel by Peter Abrahams, "The Fan" is the latest Tony Scott ("True Romance") film starring Robert DeNiro and Wesley Snipes as a fanatical fan and a star ballplayer whose paths parallel each other through their individual "slumps" in life, until the two come to a dramatic and violent collision at the films climax.
Robert DeNiro gives what is becoming a standard performance for the star. He's not as outrageous as in "Cape Fear," but his Gil Renar is not all that different from his character in the earlier film.
Snipes is pretty good, portraying a player, initially, at the top of his career taking a downward spiral as his "luck" goes to hell. He's particularly decent early on when he's playing the cock o' the walk and is on top of the world.
Production-wise, Scott offers us a visual eye candy that tastes OK while you're watching the film, but has no staying power once you walk out the theatre. He uses slick photography, lighting and set design to get you through to the end. By the end, you realize that there was no substance to what you saw.
When I saw the recent "Matilda" at the theatre, it prompted me to want to read the Roald Dahl story. (I did, and liked it nearly as much as the film!)
After seeing "The Fan," I did not feel at all compelled to read that novel. Kind of shows you the difference in storytelling.
Basically, I didn't care. I give "The Fan" a C-
Well, we never got an EPK to review "The Fan" on Reeling -- things like this always make me suspicious (as in "what are they trying to hide?"). While its faults are fairly obvious, I though there was enough merit in the first half of the movie to almost recommend it for certain viewers (DeNiro fans, etc.).
It's a pity -- "The Fan" starts out well enough establishing DeNiro's character as a put-upon knife salesman whose sales tactics are antiquated causing him to become more enraged as his sales numbers slide. He's also an obsessive baseball fan fixated on the newest member of the Giants, Bobby Rayburn, the 40 million dollar contract player played by Wesley Snipes. He's also a divorced dad. Beginning to get the picture?
Tony Scott ("Top Gun," "True Romance") has a number of detractors, but I think he had the beginnings of a slick film here -- it's got jangly editting, flashy visuals and a screaming soundtrack (DeNiro is introduced with the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" -- a little obvious perhaps). Snipes is fine as the cocky ballplayer who's career begins to go into a slump. DeNiro is truly creepy (his performance keeps getting compared to a cross between his "King of Comedy," "Taxi Driver" and "Cape Fear" characters, but I thought it was much more reminiscent of "This Boy's Life"). I thought I'd be bored watching DeNiro trot out another psycho, but he really had me going.
Then the film gets into its father-son subtext. DeNiro's character kidnaps the son of Snipes' character and it's all downhill from there. It's as if Scott was suddenly rushed to finish his film without a completed script. The plot holes begin to get wider and wider as DeNiro seems to have unlimited access to things, people and areas that would normally be pretty secure and a ball game continues in such a downpour it's surprising the pitcher's mound didn't turn into a mudslide.
So - a surprisingly good start but a dismal turnaround mid film.
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