THE MUMMY - ENTRAPMENT
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM
PUSHING TIN - OPEN YOUR EYES (ABRE LOS OJOS) - IDLE HANDS
Based on the 1932 classic, "The Mummy" is an adventure tale a la "Raiders of the Lost Ark" lite. In the midst of an Egyptian battle in 1923, legionnaire Rick O'Connell (Brendon Fraser) stumbles upon the ruins of Hamunaptra. Years later, accompanied by beautiful Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), O'Connell returns seeking its legendary treasures, but he's up against a band of American scavengers as well as mysterious warriors sworn to protect the sacred burial grounds. The conflict unleashes Imhotep as the Mummy, seeking Evelyn as a human sacrifice to revive his long lost love, Anck-Su-Namun.
Laura's review of 'The Mummy'
"The Mummy" has a punchy opening, where we see the events that led to the mummy's curse. Imhotep has his tongue ripped out before being mummified alive and is then sealed into his sarcophagus with flesh-eating scarab beetles (now that's a curse!), for having murdered the pharaoh to obtain the pharaoh's equally treacherous mistress. But even some of these scenes' impact is lessened because of some less than convincing matte work.
The film's artfully edited trailer promised a grand scale summer blockbuster but, aside from some nifty special effects, it plays more like a 30's Saturday afternoon matinee. Attempts at humor are generally of the eye-rolling sort - Brendan Fraser can't sling a one-liner with the mastery of Harrison Ford although he's successful in a hit and miss kind of way. He spends most of the film shooting at things that bullets would be completely ineffective against, like sand. Rachel Weisz ("Swept >From the Sea") looks ravishing, but the script has her alternating between klutziness (an early mishap in a museum library is a real groaner) and translating every hieroglyphic in sight.
Arnold Vasloo has a Billy Zane-like villainy as the title character. In fact, this film was cast with several people who look like more well known people. O'Connell's slimy ex-partner Beni is played by Ben Stiller look alike Kevin O'Connor. Israeli actor Ardeth Bay, who has excellent presence as the leader of the desert warriors, resembles an Arabic George Harrison. John Hannah ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") chews scenery as Evelyn's cowardly and lazy brother. The actors cast as the Americans are all completely bland.
The film's special effects are noteworthy, if not revolutionary. Most spectacular are several occurrences of sand taking the shape of the mummy's screaming face, but the effect is used once too often. Images of locusts and scarabs swarming are too evidently CCG-created - they don't mesh well enough with the live action.
"The Mummy's" not a bad way to spend a couple of hours, but it's hardly competition for the likes of "The Phantom Menace."
Robin's review of 'The Mummy':
Based on the 1932 Karl Freund horror classic, "The Mummy" is a rousing adventure tale a la "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Man Who Would Be King." In 1923, legionnaire Rick O'Connell (Brendon Fraser) stumbles upon the ruins of Hamunaptra, the ancient city of the undead, during a raging battle. Years later, accompanied by beautiful Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), O'Connell returns to the city seeking its legendary treasures, but he's competing with a band of American scavengers as well as mysterious warriors sworn to protect the sacred burial grounds. The conflict unleashes Imhotep as the cursed Mummy, seeking Evelyn as a human sacrifice to revive his long lost love, Anck-Su-Namun.
This modern remake of "The Mummy" is a technically competent, modestly well-cast action adventurer tinged with ancient and Hollywood mythologies that suffers from not involving the viewer in the plot and characters.
The film's big budget shows up nicely in the nifty special F/X, from the Mummy, himself, to the battles with the undead. The technology used to give "life" to the computer-generated creatures has reached a high state of art, indeed. The makers meld the CGI and human actors so that, for example, Imhotep, (South African actor Arnold Vosloo), is half human/half monster in a visually seamless manner. The effects take those used in Sam Raimi's "Army of Darkness" a quantum leap forward.
Location setting, filmed in Morocco for Egypt, suits the mood of the film, giving the action scenes a sweeping desert vista as backdrop. The ancient city of Hamunaptra is set in an extinct, volcanic crater, with an impressive recreation of the mysterious city. Costuming, both in the beginning, explanatory sequence 3000 years before and in the "modern day" story of the 1920's, suits (no pun intended) the period effort well.
The script tries to push ever action thriller button it can. There is the requisite humor-in-the-face-of-adversity, though not nearly enough of it in the film. There are shoot-out and fight scenes aplenty, well done, but seen before. Special F/X ARE of the highest quality and uniquely handled and varied, with some good gross outs - especially if you don't like swarms of giant, flesh eating scarab beetles. Yuck! Industrial Light & Magic, I'm sure, have kept a few of their state-of-the-art F/X to themselves for use in that other little sci-fi film coming out soon.
The cast is fine for what they are expected to do. The sweep of the story and concentration on F/X and action keep the actors at arm length to the characters. This is not the fault of the thesps, though, as Brendan Fraser ("George of the Jungle") conte to get you into the characters. "The Mummy" is more akin to the mediocre 1985 "King Solomon's Mines" (with Richard Chamberlain) than to "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I give it a B-.
A Rembrandt valued at $24 million is stolen in a daring robbery and insurance investigator Virginia "Gin" Baker (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is certain that she knows the identity of the thief. She convinces her boss, Hector Cruz (Will Patton), to send her after the world's greatest art thief, Robert "Mac" MacDougal (Sean Connery). But nothing and no-one is really what they seem in the caper thriller, "Entrapment.".
Robin's review of 'Entrapment':
"Entrapment" is routine big-budget film fare that we come to expect from the Hollywood dream factory. It combines a slick caper flick with lots of B&E work and a complex cat-an-mouse story that keeps you guessing right up to the end. The good looking cast and capable behind-the-camera crew make this sleek tinsel town effort easy on the eye, but it lacks emotion.
Surprisingly, with the legendary Sean Connery and the beautiful, lithe Catherine Zeta-Jones ("The Mask of Zorro") in the lead roles, there is little, if any, romantic chemistry. The two have a mutual, professional respect for each other, but there is no spark as they plan their capers and get to know each other. The forced romance between Connery and Zeta-Jones makes the case for a father/daughter kind of relationship. As Connery approaches his septuagenarian decade, it might be a better idea to age his love interests a bit more. Zeta-Jones is pleasing to the eye and shows admirable athletic skill in the physical aspects of the film. The Welsh-born actress does a credible American accent, too.
There are few other players in the film, besides the principles, to flesh things out, so the use of some of the industry's top character actors helps considerably. Ving Rhames ("Pulp Fiction") is Thibadeaux, Mac's mysterious partner who is the one in control of their business. Rhames can go from a cuddly bear of a guy to a ruthless killer in the blink of an eye and lends a subtle menace to the role. The versatile Will Patton ("Armageddon") plays Hector Cruz, Gin's boss, a man obsessed with bringing Mac down. Finally, the great Maury Chaykin ("Dances With Wolves") play black marketer, Conrad Greene, a flamboyant character who is, sadly, only given brief screen time. For me, more of Maury is better.
Technically, everything is first rate and, in the hands of a helmer more tuned to the action-thriller genre, like John McTiernan ("Die Hard"), "Entrapment" could have been o top-notch cat-and-mouse, caper thriller. Director John Amiel ("Sommersby") fails to give the story any spirit as he builds one high-tech theft upon another. There are lots of nifty gadgets as befits a modern day thriller, but no soul to the story. A better example of the caper thriller is, of course, Alfred Hitchcock's great "To Catch a Thief" with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.
The screenplay by Academy Award-winner Ron Bass ("My Best Friend's Wedding") and William Broyles ("Apollo 13") starts with a daring art heist and builds upon that as each new caper gets more complex. Interestingly, with all the high tech gadgetry, the training and execution of the escapades is decidedly low-tech. For example, Zeta-Jones trains to get through a complex lazer-beam security system using strands of yarn and bells as a substitute. There are also many ambiguous loyalties and alliances among the characters that keep you guessing right up to the end. The ending is, unfortunately, a pat boy-gets-girl finale, as expected. A more melancholy ending would have been refreshing.
It's nice to see Sean Connery still pull off the charm and Catherine Zeta-Jones is beautiful in figure and movement. And, she can act. The rest of the film has the technical elements to complement the cast. What's missing is soul. I give "Entrapment" a B-.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM
When Hermia (Anna Friel) takes to the woods with her lover Lysander (Dominic West), she's followed by her father-approved fiance Demetrius (Christian Bale), who's followed in turn by Hermia's love sick cousin Helena (Calista Flockhart). Meanwhile a group of actors, lead by the hammy Bottom (Kevin Klein), is preparing a play for the Duke's upcoming nuptials. They're all about to be messed with when Oberon (Rupert Everett), the King of the Fairies who's got his own romantic problems with his Queen, Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer), sends Puck (Stanley Tucci) forth with a love potion.
Laura's review of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream':
One of the frothiest (and least) of Shakespeare's plays, "A Midsummer's Night Dream" should be a light romp. This production, which could have used a dose of Kenneth Branaugh, is an exercise in tedium punctuated by small bursts of pleasure.
Kevin Klein is the biggest reason to see this film as a man literally turned into an ass and the object of the bewitched Tatiana's desire. Michelle Pfeiffer has never been more stunning as the Fairy Queen. She pulls off a particularly comic line reading or two, but is mostly window dressing. Of the four mismatched lovers, only Flockhart makes much of an impression as the bicycle-riding Helena. Christian Bale, so promising as a young actor, is becoming more wooden with each adult role he takes on. Stanley Tucci is horribly miscast as Puck and brings nothing to the role (Adam Sandler would have been an interesting choice). Rupert Everett is a dull Oberon. The terrific character actor David Strathairn walks through his ducal part. Sophie Marceau provides more window dressing as his betrothed. A big surprise is Bill Irwin (TV's"Alf") who gives a twinkling performance, maintaining his own in scenes with Klein.
Michael Hoffman's direction is leaden. His film is incredibly stage bound, also due to Oscar winner Luciana Arrighi's atrocious production design which features fake boulders straight out of TV's "Land of the Giants" and tortoise transportation for Puck which brings to mind a Big Wheel.
The film does have the advantage of ending on a high note, when the fantastical middle section has ended and the motley group of actors are chosen as the Duke's wedding entertainment. The play is a disaster, presented as farcical slapstick enriched with bawdy double entendres. It's a comic delight founded in Klein's astoundingly funny performance, then capped with a note of poignance deftly delivered by Sam Rockwell. In this movie, the play's the thing.
Robin's review of 'William Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream'
Monte Athena, Italy, circa 1900
Helena loves Demetrius. Demetrius loves her best friend, Hermia. Hermia loves his brother, Lysander. Lysander also loves Hermia. Hermia and Lysander run off to elope on the new invention called the bicycle. Demetrius follows the pair, with Helena in pursuit, into the nearby enchanted forest.
Nick Bottom is an aspiring amateur thespian (read: ham). His little, local acting troupe plans to put on a play, "The Most Lamentable Comedy, and Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe," for the wedding celebration of Duke Theseus (David Strathairn). Bottom, as usual, wants to play all the parts. Common sense reigns, however, and the tiny company of actors also retire to the forest to prepare for their big debut.
The Fairy Queen, Titania (Michelle Pfeiffer), is miffed with her king, Oberon (Rupert Everett). He, in a plan to woo his angry wife back, sends his trusted lieutenant, Puck (Stanley Tucci), to seek a special flower to cast a spell on his beloved. While waiting for his minion's return, Oberon spies the young quartet of lovers. When Puck returns with the magic flowers, the king decides to play some mischief upon the four. He uses the same magic to try to win back Titania, but Nick Bottom, now turned into an ass (appropriately). Becomes the object of her affection instead of Oberon!
Director Michael Hoffman ("One Fine Day"), who also wrote this adaptation of the Shakespeare work, is in lofty company with this version of the Bard's comedy. Since the lavish 1934 production, which starred Mickey Rooney as Puck and James Cagney as Nick Bottom, there have been five other renditions of "Midsummer" brought to the big screen. This latest version attempts to convey Shakespeare's comedy of manner and magic with a visual look into the fairy world.
There were three ways to go for Hoffman in this production. One, following Shakespeare's own method, would concentrate on the actors/characters with the visuals left to the imagination of the spectator. Second, in the tradition of the earliest stage and screen renditions of "Midsummer," would be to concentrate on the fantasy/visual aspect with the characters less fleshed out. Finally, as Hoffman does it, a combination the playwright's dialog and character development in the play with the many visual techniques created over the last hundred years. Hoffman gives a yeoman's effort, but the film left me wondering how a more "classical" hand, say Peter Greenaway ("Prospero's Books"), would have done.
The story combines two separate and distinct worlds - the idyllic, bustling Italian town preparing for the wedding of their beloved Duke and the dark, otherworld of the fairy king and queen and their loyal vassals. The humans, unbeknownst, en, led by the still-beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania. Stanley Tucci shows lots of pluck as Puck, but is uninteresting in what should have been a more mirthful role. Rupert Everett looks good as the king of the fairies, but lends nothing special to the role.
Of the four lovers, only Calista Flockhart (TV's "Ally McBeal") gives any life to her performance of the lovelorn Helena. The rest, Christian Bale, Anna Friel and Dominic West are two dimensional at best. The members of Bottom's little acting troupe - Roger Rees ("The Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby"), Sam Rockwell ("Box of Moonlight"), Bill Irwin ("Fool Moon"), Max Wright (TV's "Alf") and Greg Jbara - are first rate in their tiny roles, making you wish THEY played the lovers.
A clever addition to the turn-of-the-century setting is the use of the bicycle as a magical implement in its own way. Costuming is right, especially as the camera wanders through the nightly world of the fairies. Production design has an artificial instead of mystical look.
The Shakespearean dialog is faithful to the original and requires the attention of the viewer to capture the Bard's nuance and humor in his period turn of a phrase. There are requisite Shakespearean turn of phrase, like "what fools these mortals be." However, the execution of the Bard's comic work is less than sparkling. I give "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" a disappointed C+.
"You land a million planes safely, but you have one little mid-air and you never hear the end of it." This sets the tone of director Mike Newell's latest foray into American sub-culture. This time, instead of the mob underworld of "Donnie Brasco," Newell examines the on-the-edge life of the travel world's unsung hero - the air traffic controller. Based on the insightful New York Times Magazine article by Darcy Frey, "Something's Got to Give," the film stars John Cusack as Nick "No Fly Zone" Falzone, THE hotshot ATC of the Newark Corridor, the busiest air-traffic spot in the world. Zone is the tops in his profession until a new gun, named Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton), strolls into town. Nick sees the newcomer as a challenger for his top spot, sparking an intense competition between the two in "Pushing Tin."
Robin's review of 'Pushing Tin':
Nick is the best of the best. He can juggle 10 planes at once on antiquated, unreliable equipment, banter with his fellows AND sing a tune between his rapid fire instructions to his air-bound wards. He's the top gun of the ATCs until Russell hits the scene. Russell is a legend among the controllers, a man who subjected himself to the air blast of a landing 747 just to know what turbulence really feels like. He's also a teetotaler (unheard of in the craft) and is married to a gorgeous younger woman, Mary (Angelina Joli, "Playing God").
Nick sees Russell as the enemy, even as he outwardly tries to befriend the newcomer. But, every time he challenges Bell, whether at getting the most planes on his radar or in a "friendly" basketball shoot-off, he loses. Without trying, Russell comes out on top every time, even when a bomb threat forces the ATC center to evacuate and he risks his life to get a plane in distress safely landed. This all drives Nick crazy, making him risk his marriage and his job in his quest to best Russell. In his obsessive state of mind, he even sleeps with Mary. The ensuing ramifications of his actions leads Nick into a downward spiral of divorce and job insecurity.
John Cusack is solid as the young Turk in command of his universe. He does a great job as he transitions from being #1 on the block to being, suddenly, a distant #2. His self-esteem depends on him being the best and he can't handle being less. Russell is the innocent catalyst that sends Cusack's Nick over the edge and the actor does a credible job.
Billy Bob Thornton is a surprise and a treat as the mysterious Russell. He is quiet and capable and delivers a subtly intense performance as the living legend of air traffic controllers. With a minimum of dialogue, Thornton displays the quiet, Zen-like passion Russell has for everything he does, doing his best because it is all he knows how to do. Thornton's is a quiet but powerful supporting performance.
Cate Blanchett ("Elizabeth") is terrific as Nick's dedicated, loving wife, Connie. She's not the brightest person, but loves Nick and is always doing some sort of extension course to improve herself. Nick's betrayal is devastating to the woman and Blanchett does a fine job in a tough role. (The loyal wife role has to be the toughest to do without cliche.) She does a pretty darn good New Yawk accent, for an Aussie, too.
Angelina Joli, a beautiful young actress who has peaked my interest in her other outings, is mis-cast or mis-directed as the confused young wife of Russell. Her mannered performance is annoying at times as Joli tries to define the undefined character, Mary.
The supporting cast of ATC personnel could have/should have been an ensemble of characters along the lines of "The Seven Samurai" or "The Magnificent Seven." Without a lot of effort, and with the talent of the actors involved here, a rich mine of characters could have helped flesh out the film beyond the leads. Mostly, the other controllers group themselves behind one or the other principle like an indistinct Greek chorus.
The screenplay by Glen Charles and Les Charles (TV's "Cheers) does an effective job of capturing the frenzied day-to-day life of air traffic controllers and the pressures and stresses that they undergo day in and out. They work this theme well through the first three quarters of the film. The last half hour, unfortunately, degrades into a conventional tale of a man trying to get back what he lost. There is even an obligatory corny scene where Nick serenades Connie in an attempt to woo her back. The last part is, unfortunately, ultra-conventional following the innovative, intelligent and energetic bulk of the film.
Technical credits, especially the crisp photography by Gale Tattersall ("Virtuosity") which cleanly captures the murky, dark environment of the tin pushers, are excellent. The frenetic editing by Jon Gregory ("Donnie Brasco") captures the wild, controlled chaos of an ATC center, giving the players' routine actions a palpable tension.
I wish the last half hour had kept the same pace and unusual qualities afforded during the first 90 minutes. If so, "Pushing Tin" could have been great. It's good, though, and I give it a B.
Laura's review of 'Pushing Tin'
British director Mike Newell ("Donnie Brasco") takes on the world of New York City air traffic controllers in "Pushing Tin." We're quickly informed, via a school trip to TRACON, that this profession has the highest alcoholism, heart attack and suicide rates and that a controller holds more lives in his hands during one shift than a surgeon does in an entire lifetime. The film begins with the quote 'You land a million planes safely, then you have one little mid-air and you never hear the end of it.' When an air traffic controller burns out (becomes 'frozen to the scope'), his colleagues routinely make bets as to how far he'll make it from his car on subsequent attempts to return to the job.
John Cusack is Nick 'no fly zone' Falzone, a wired hot shot who can land more planes than any of his colleagues, a bunch of high paid, low educated, hard partying cowboys (and one body building woman, played by TV's Vicki Lewis of "News Radio" with a flash of machismo). He lives the good life with his beautiful high school sweetheart Connie (Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth") and two young boys in a high priced, cookie cutter subdivision in New Jersey. His ego is threatened by the arrival of Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton, "A Simple Plan"), a half-Cree man of little words who's reputation (he once let a 747 pass over his head in order to experience its turbulence first hand) precedes him and whom women find 'interesting' (Lewis swallows the word as she realizes she's about to become the object of good-natured ribbing).
Nick, who strongly advocates safety first, is appalled when Russell moves planes dangerously close together in order to land them on schedule. Russell's zen-like calm while pushing more tin than Nick causes Nick to initiate a game of one upmanship that will have devastating consequences.
The group gapes when Russell attends a barbecue with his 19 year old wife Mary (Angelina Jolie, "Playing by Heart"). Mary's trashy attire, tattoos and heavy drinking add to Russell's mystique. When Nick finds her sobbing in a grocery store, he takes her out to dinner at his local Italian hangout and copious amounts of wine cause him to commit the ultimate transgression - sleeping with another controller's wife. Russell responds with eerie calmness, yet still gets under Nick's skin by comparing the charms of their wives.
John Cusack has a talent for displaying controlled insanity which is neatly utilized here. Thornton (who is rail thin in this role) is more impressive in his quiet authority (and ultimate heroism), building a strong and intriguing character with scant dialogue (and gives a hilarious rendition of 'Muskrat Love' with Mary hanging on his body while Connie hangs on his words). Blanchett's Connie is more than just a wife figure, creating a woman who copes with the lunacy of her husband's profession with outside interests (and plenty of sex appeal within the long term marriage). Jolie, a young actress of note, is merely baffling here, although that fault could be laid at the screenwriters' door. (The film was written by Glen and Les Charles, creators of "Cheers.")
The film balances moments of high tension (it's an eye opener to realize that it's the air traffic controller who really controls the plane during the most dangerous parts of its flight) and humor (Nick shows off to Russell with reckless driving only to find that Russell's nodded off during the wild ride). At the film's climax, Nick and Russell remain landing planes during a bomb scare. Nick, believing Russell's already left the building, does what he can for one last plane, before diving out into the snow seconds before the bomb's scheduled blast. Russell, meanwhile, has remained inside, calling an in-flight air phone to speak directly to the pilot of the last plane approaching New York. Russell then disappears while TV commentators air footage of Nick's heroic last minute dive out of the building as an example of the panic which took place.
>From this moment, the film stumbles. With his life in shambles, Nick searches out Russell to act as his guru and the movie deflates with pseudo-new ageisms and an 'only-in-the-movies' reconciliation between Nick and Connie. Yet "Pushing Tin" offers some great moments (a near miss seen from a cockpit made me duck!) and a terrific performance from Thornton.
OPEN YOUR EYES (ABRE LOS OJOS)
Cesar (Eduardo Noriega) is rich, handsome and prides himself on having a different beautiful woman every night. When he hits on his best friend's date Sofia (Penelope Cruz, "Live Flesh") at his birthday party, the woman from the night before, the sexy but clinging Nuria (Najwa Nimri, looking like a Spanish Louise Brooks), follows the couple and waits all night to offer Cesar a ride and more. Instead she drives her car over a cliff, killing herself and leaving Cesar horribly disfigured. Cesar next finds himself under psychiatric evaluation for the murder of a woman named Sofia, or is it Nuria, in the complex sci-fi thriller from newcomer Alejandro Amenabar "Open Your Eyes."
Laura's review of 'Open Your Eyes':
"Open Your Eyes" is an incredibly ambitious first film which delivers in the story department (screenplay by Amenabar and Mateo Gil) while the unsympathetic lead character forces an emotional distance upon its audience.
Amenabar juggles flashbacks, present day and flashforwards, reality and make-believe, throwing disconnected scenes at his viewers with a rapid fire pace while amazingly maintaining coherence.
Does Sofia really exist or is she a figment of Cesar's imagination, being the first woman he wishes to return to? Or is she really one and the same as Nuria? Is the work of plastic surgeons really so successful Cesar's pre-accident face is recreated or is he the Phantom-of-the-Opera-ish ghoul he still sees in the mirror? Is he a murderer or simply crazy as his friend Pelayo (Fele Martinez) maintains? What does Serge Duvernois (Gerard Barray), the narrator of a TV documentary on cryogenics, have to do with all this?
Amenabar comes up with a neat explanation in the film's final third, where it takes a distinct turn into science fiction. However, I found the first two thirds of "Open Your Eyes" more compelling and wished the film's ending had been more ambiguous.
Eduardo Noreiga does a fine job as Cesar in three modes. He's cocky and confident as the handsome playboy. Somewhat more sympathetic when disfigured (he resembles the late Klaus Kinski as Leatherface), Noreiga tormentedly replays the opposite story presented in the film's first third (another neat screenwriting trick). In present day, the masked Noriega (the look recalls the French film, "Eyes Without a Face") is withdrawn until he begins to connect the dots and enlists the aid of his psychiatrist Antonio (Chete Lera) to unravel the events which have placed him in a mental institution. Also noteworthy is Najwa Nimri as Nuria/Sofia, an exotic beauty soon to be seen costarring with Martinez in the upcoming "Lovers of the Arctic Circle."
The film's look is stark, featuring washed out, institutional grays and greens except for Nuria, whose signature color is bright red. Amenabar achieves amazing 'special' effects by clearing the streets of Madrid, creating an unnatural future world. The soundtrack features a haunting selection of pop songs.
"Open Your Eyes" is a startling debut from an eye-opening new talent.
Robin's review of 'Open Your Eyes':
Sometimes you attend a film where you can't quite keep track of what's going on, but you are so thoroughly intrigued by the story and its complexity that you forget the confusion and revel in the diversity of the tale. Such a film is "Open You Eyes" by acclaimed Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, opening soon for the art house crowd.
"Open Your Eyes" is a multi-layered/multi-threaded story that deals with duality and the dichotomy between physical beauty and flaw. There is mask symbolism and metaphor galore and are all tied together with the intertwining of dream, reality and fantasy. The jumps in and out of dreams and reality is a little confusing, though Amenabar does not allow us to dwell to long on any of these transitions. He keeps us well intrigued by keeping us a little out of step.
Eduardo Noriega looks an awful lot like American actor Peter Gallagher in his handsome guise. As the disfigured Cesar, I thought he looked like a really battered Steve Tyler (Aerosmith). He has a third guise, too, with a mask hiding something we're not sure of. Whatever the face, Noriega turns in a terrific performance in a tough role. As the mutilated Cesar, there is a constant underlying tension in the man as he drifts in and out of dreams, in and out of beauty. The psychological impact of being pulled apart by two worlds is well conveyed by Noriega.
Penelope Cruz plays Sofia, the girlfriend of Cesar's best friend Pelayo (Fele Martinez) and the object of Cesar's attention. (Cesar is famous for his sexual conquests and one-night stands, which is his downfall). Cesar becomes obsessed with the beautiful Sofia following their chaste first meeting. More intriguing is the performance by Najwa Nimri as Nuria, as the catalyst for Cesar's dive into his hallucinatory world.
The screenplay by Amenabar and Mateo Gil could have stuck solely with the dream/reality aspect of the story. They don't. Instead, they add a science fiction element involving cryogenics and rebirth that subtly avoid convoluting the other part of the story.
Production is simple but effective. Photographer Hans Burmann captures the dream/reality shifts well enough, but excels in a sequence where Cesar, with the help of a shrink, Antonio (Chete Lera), analyzes an important dream. The look of this piece allows the viewer to almost see what Cesar almost sees in his dream.
"Open Your Eyes" is for the art house crowd. It's too strange for the average film-goer. It is an intriguing story with a whirlwind of back-and-forth between dream and reality, excellent visuals AND an element of science fiction. I give it a B+.
Long-time Roger Corman collaborator Rodman Flender brings us a tale of evil possession, zombies, murder, mayhem and blood in the new teen comedy, "Idle Hands."
Robin's review of 'Idle Hands':
Anton (Devon Sawa) is, if anything, a first rate slacker. Living off Mom and Dad, the boy is content to skip school, lay on the couch, smoke pot (out of his cleverly disguised pipe, made from an asthma inhaler), and watch scantily clad girls on MTV. That is, until an evil force enters the town of Bolan one Halloween season, slaughtering members of the town in a murder spree. Anton is oblivious to the goings on in the town, even when his parents are gruesomely killed. What Anton doesn't know, at first, but learns the hard way, is that the evil has taken possession of his right hand and he, Anton, is the killer!
This description could have been for a serious horror movie instead of a comedy. This "duality" of story, in experienced hands, could have been a complex weaving of horror and humor along the lines of Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead" flicks. It's not. Screenwriters Terri Hughes and Ron Milbauer have a bevy of plot pieces from black comedy to slapstick to gross-outs to straight horror, but there is no overall coherence to the story. It jumps from one path to the next without any sense of continuity.
Anton, if I get the story right, is possessed by evil and has, unwittingly, been killing members of the community. How he got possessed is one of the minor details overlooked by the filmmakers. After leaving a wake of bodies, including mom and dad, Anton brutally murders his two best friends, Mick (Seth Green, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery") and Pnub (Elden Henson, "The Mighty"), but they come back to life as zombies (though no one else does). Meanwhile, the local neighborhood babe, Molly (Jessica Alba), who has not even noticed Anton for years, suddenly not only notices him, she sleeps with him and becomes his girlfriend for the big Halloween dance.
During the course of all these events, Anton frees the hand, teams up with a mysterious priestess who has been searching for the evil (Viveca A. Fox, "Independence Day") and saves the school and Molly. Getting to the climax is a mess of plot holes and inconsistencies. There just isn't a sense of what the film wants to be - gore fest, slapstick or dark comedy. It does all, but none well.
With a runtime of just over 90 minutes, "Idle Hands" is too long. There is no anchor for the film and, as such, it smashes against the shoals. I give it a D+.
Laura's review of 'Idle Hands'
"Idle Hands" is an attempt to rejuvenate the gross-out comic horror film genre defined by such great flicks as Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive" and Sam Raimi's "The Evil Dead II." Roger Corman protege Rodman Flender squeezes a few chills and some laughs out of his material before the whole thing deflates. It's a good thing Flender and his editor Stephen E. Rivkin excel at pacing so this forgettable film flies by before you become annoyed at the time's you've invested in watching it.
Fred Willard and Connie Ray are suburban parents who don't live beyond the film's first five (and best) minutes. They're forewarned of their demise by a creepy message painted on their ceiling which informs them that 'I'm under the bed.'
Devon Sawa ("Casper's" human incarnation) is their son Anton, a slacker in the extreme whose sloth makes him the target for demonic possession. Anton's only activities are sleeping, watching TV and smoking pot, which he can barely muster up the ambition to cross the street to get. When he finally notices his parents are missing, his reaction is only annoyance at the inconvenience of running out of dog food and milk. When his buddies Mick (Seth Green, "Can't Hardly Wait") and Pnub (Elden Henson, "The Mighty") help him discover that he's the killer being talked about in the news, he promptly dispatches them as well. He can no longer control his murderous right hand.
Thankfully his pals are almost as lazy as he is and can't be bothered following the bright light they see, which allows them to stick around as undead (very reminiscent of "An American Werewolf in London"). Green, sporting a beer bottle protruding from his head and Henson, trying to keep his head, provide most of the fun "Idle Hands" has to offer.
The film takes on a new dimension when Anton hacks off his hand (shades of "The Evil Dead II") and it takes on a life of its own. Enter Druid priestess Debi (Vivica A. Fox, "Independence Day"), who's been following the demon from host to host, in a totally lackluster turn of events.
Good horror films are hard to come by and I've certainly seen far worse than "Idle Hands."
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