After surviving a devastating car accident following her first college party freshman Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) falls into a coma and steps into a nightmare of otherworldly visitations. Haunted by a grim reaper of a far different kind her only hope is to cling to chance encounters with her lost love Sean (Casey Affleck) and the aid of a mysterious young priest named Father Jude (Luke Wilson). Cassie's malicious friends Matt (Wes Bentley) Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and the morose Raven (Angela Featherstone) seem intent on drawing her to the dark side but the spirit of her soul mate Sean guides her back to the world of the living.
Sagemiller (Get Over It) may be a fine actress but this film--her second full-length feature--isn't the one to prove it. Not that Sagemiller does a poor job but like most dull and stale horror movies the female lead isn't asked to do much other than look frightened and scream--a lot. Affleck (Good Will Hunting) Bentley (American Beauty) and Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) are among the more talented actors of their generation but are completely wasted especially Affleck in his one-dimensional role. Wilson as Father Jude is the only character with an interesting part but unfortunately the good Father's development is stunted and incomplete leaving Wilson little to work with.
Steve Carpenter's first turn as a director leaves much to be desired. Of course Carpenter wrote the formulaic script so why shouldn't he be the one to helm it? One major flaw (and there are plenty to choose from) is that nearly half the movie is shot tight on the characters giving the audience a very myopic view. Even if that was intentional it certainly did nothing to heighten the tension (what little of it there was) in the movie. The flick's tagline "The World of the Dead and the World of the Living... are About to Collide" conveys the message of an epic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good--a struggle that never materializes. And the film's final message that love conquers all is the boring hackneyed truism that breaks the cliché camel's back.
A host of mid-level blockbusters and some serious classic films highlight the DVD release schedule for the week of Dec. 7.
Heading things up is Warner Bros.' special edition of the Renny Harlin-directed action feature "Deep Blue Sea" ($24.98 SRP). A sort of 1999 version of "Jaws," "Deep Blue Sea" features a group of scientists attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease by experimenting on sharks. As the sea creatures are altered with enlarged brains, they begin to get uppity, and chaos ensues. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Saffron Burrows and Thomas Jane. Warner's special edition includes a running commentary, behind-the-scenes documentaries and detailed storyboards and stills.
As expected, Disney has re-released its Academy Award-winning "Shakespeare in Love" ($39.99 SRP), this time in a deluxe, special edition. The Best Picture recipient at last year's Oscar presentation now features a pair of audio commentaries -- one with director John Madden and one with cast and crew as well as deleted scenes and a spotlight on costumes. Unfortunately, this pattern of releasing and then re-releasing its films in special-edition format comes as a bit of a blow to Disney enthusiasts who find themselves having to buy multiple copies of a film in order to get all the added goodies. On the plus side, at least these special editions are actually seeing the light of day in the first place. You decide.
Director Mike Figgis' controversial "Loss of Sexual Innocence" ($27.95 SRP) will also hit shelves this week in a special-edition package. Debuting at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and starring Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows and Kelly MacDonald, the feature includes a running audio commentary by Figgis, as well as the original theatrical trailer.
The Disney animated classics continue to roll off the presses. This week, an old classic joins a newer one when "The Jungle Book" ($39.99 SRP) and "The Little Mermaid" ($39.99 SRP) hit video outlets. Both are presented in their proper aspect ratios (1.33:1 and 1.66:1, respectively) and are available only for 60 days. Unfortunately, neither includes any real extras and will probably have collectors shelling out additional cash at some point down the line when the real special editions finally hit the streets.
For those looking for a walk on the wild side, the seminal 1969 biker epic "Easy Rider" ($24.95 SRP) hits stores in a deluxe special edition. Starring Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, "Easy Rider" turned a generation on to the beauty of riding a big, loud Harley across America. Easily one of the most influential psychedelic films of its time, "Easy Rider" continues to impress filmgoers. Columbia/TriStar's special edition also includes a running commentary by actor/director Hopper, as well as the making-of documentary "Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage."
The filmmakers of today owe a monumental debt of gratitude to cinema's forefathers, not the least of which is silent-film icon D.W. Griffith. The grandfather of modern filmmaking was riding a high and powerful wave when he released his 1916 tour de force "Intolerance."
His 178-minute ode to man's brutality toward man throughout history was one of the most expensive and time-consuming projects ever attempted. Jumping between tales of injustice from four different moments in history (known as the Babylonian, French, Judaean and Modern stories), "Intolerance" proved to be far, far ahead of its time. While film scholars marvel at the detail and complex storytelling, the film proved disastrous at its time of release. Fortunately, in the 83 years since its box office flop, film lovers have come to embrace Griffith's tale of corruption and inhumanity as perhaps the most important work in early film history. Image Entertainment's special edition DVD of "Intolerance" ($29.99 SRP) includes the fully restored 178-minute version of the film, as well as deleted segments, publicity material and copyright registration frames.
From the classics to the notorious, home video will never be the same once documentary filmmaker Todd Phillips' ode to the late punk rock icon G.G. Allin hits stores this week. "Hated: G.G. Allin & the Murder Junkies" ($24.98 SRP) documents the performer's final U.S. tour after his parole from a Michigan prison on assault charges. With a wide (and amazingly fair) assortment of interviews with fans, former teachers and band members, as well as archival and concert footage, "Hated" paints a disturbing portrait of a man whose biggest claim to fame cannot even be printed on a family Web site. As controversial as its subject (upon word of Allin's lethal drug overdose in June 1993, several magazine reports began with the qualifier that "it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy"), "Hated" gives viewers a well-rounded introduction into a world most would rather not inhabit.
Is anything more frightening than realizing that a desperate and hackneyed sequel to a desperate and hackneyed parody required the work of seven writers? Yes seven writers including brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans. Perhaps one group of writers divided their time poking fun at the latest pop culture phenomenons while the other group concocted new and disgusting ways to drench their cast in vomit urine excretion and semen. The result: a tired tasteless and uninspired send-up of The Exorcist and The Haunting complete with jibes at Nike's new Stomp-inspired basketball commercials and the Florida presidential election fiasco. Our heroes-plus some fresh meat--spend the night in the haunted Hell House as part of an experiment conducted by mad professor Tim Curry. Naturally they find themselves tormented by the ghost of the house. Cue sexual humiliations mutilations and giant wedgies.
So the sequel ignores the fact that some of its cast members perished or were implicated in the first film's murders. Were you expecting a semblance of logic to permeate the proceedings? Anna Faris as the virginal Cindy; Marlon Wayans as pothead Shorty; Shawn Wayans as the closeted gay Ray; and Regina Hall as the pushy Brenda return. They are joined by Tori Spelling wasted as a coed obsessed with her ghostly host; Curry hammy as the professor willing to sacrifice his students; David Cross hysterical as Curry's wheelchair-bound assistant whose self-reliance causes more problems than necessary; and Chris Elliott a hoot as the mansion's caretaker whose withered left hand generates more laughs than almost all the script's woeful cracks at satirizing its intended targets. All prove game especially Faris who finds herself up to her neck in all kinds of nasty goo in the name of comedy.
If only director Keenen Ivory Wayans made an effort to be funny rather than just shocking. He seems intent on making the sequel so much more outrageous than his first film that he forgets to make us laugh for the right reasons. The chuckles mask the slight disgust at seeing Faris dripping in semen or Shawn Wayans sodomizing a demonic clown (but the sight of Cross fellating himself is an amusing way to emphasize his character's doggedness). Wayans' attempts at parodying What Lies Beneath and Hannibal flounder but he does a fine job sending up John Woo's dove-filled climax to Mission: Impossible 2. There's nothing more lazy than tearing into The Exorcist--it's 28 years old!--and it's sad to see James Woods demean himself as a priest with a taste for little girls. Woods stepped in for Marlon Brando whose poor health cost him a reported $2 million but saved him his dignity.
This is a tough one to judge. You never get any explanation of who these people are or why they do what they do; if you don't know the video game you're basically thrown into Tomb Raider blind. Just go with it and figure it'll all make sense eventually. It does--for the most part. Lara Croft (Jolie) who is carrying on her deceased father's (Jon Voight) work as an English archaeologist/antiquities hunter uncovers an ancient puzzle that she must solve before it's too late. Centuries before a mysterious otherworldly object with a godlike power to alter time was split in two and the pieces buried in tombs on opposite ends of the earth. Jolie must race against time to find both halves of the object and destroy it before a leader of an evil secret society (Iain Glen) gets his hands on it.
With her long dark braid and impossible figure (thanks to some stuffing up top) Jolie certainly is a dead ringer for über-heroine Croft. Her hoity-toity monotone Brit accent is sporadic and fleeting; she slips in and out of it as often and easily as she does impending death. Our globetrotting superwoman switches languages as needed winning over Buddhist monks and little Mongolian girls in the process (tell me please how she wears a T-shirt while dog sledding in Siberia while everyone else is bundled up in parkas? That bra must've been padded with Thinsulate). Jolie can kick butt with the best of 'em but she's tiresome. All arch looks and badass 'tude this Kelly-LeBrock-for-the-new-millennium is not terribly much fun. Granted Croft has serious work to do but a little lightheartedness goes a long way. Raiders of the Lost Ark this ain't.
Given that there's little story line acted out by characters with whom it's hard to connect since you have no idea who they are the movie surprisingly manages to keep your attention for a couple hours. Then again that could be due to the tremendous and seemingly never-ending clamor on screen where every few seconds a hailstorm of bullets showers the scene or really big things are happening--gargantuan rock statues turn into sword-wielding CGI beasts enormous retro-futuristic contraptions like something out of Brazil materialize from the earth beams of light descend from the distant beyond. Or maybe it's just the mesmerizing effect of waiting for Jolie's lips to crawl across her face like two fat slugs going after the magic jasmine Daddy Croft told Lara about.
After being drugged by a rival earl French nobleman Count Thibault (Jean Reno)
murders his bride-to-be Rosalind Malfete (Christina Applegate) on the eve of
their impending nuptials. While awaiting his execution Thibault sends his servant
André (Christian Clavier) to fetch a wizard (Malcolm McDowell) who can send Thibault
back in time so he can undo the night's tragic events. The spell backfires and
sends Thibault and his sidekick into the future instead of the past straight
into a Chicago museum's exhibit of medieval artifacts in the year 2000. Thibault
soon realizes that the exhibit's curator Julia Malfete (Applegate again) is
his descendant 30 generations removed after semi-convincing her of this he enlists
her help in finding the wizard who can send him back to the 12th century to save
their lineage. Meanwhile Julia's unfaithful money-grubbing husband Hunter (Matthew
Ross) throws a wrench in their plans and tries to have Thibault arrested for
false impersonation in order to hold onto the Malfete family fortune Julia stands
to inherit. Though the plot is riddled with holes the story line takes full advantage
of the 12th-century-meets-21st-century jokes and pranks including the visitors'
fascinations with modern day transportation electricity toilets and urinals
all guaranteeing good laughs.
Reno and Clavier reprise their roles in this American adaptation of the 1993 French
blockbuster Les Visiteurs. Reno brings both warmth and wit to Thibault's
character and carries the film from beginning to end. Tough chivalrous and charming
he evokes the legendary knight in shining armor. Though Clavier who plays his
subservient sidekick and brunt of all jokes elicits a few chuckles with his slip-and-fall
physical comedy he also demonstrates a tender side when he pleads with Thibault
for his freedom. Applegate puts on a believable British accent as Rosalind in
12th-century England but fares much better as Julia in 21st-century Chicago.
McDowell in the role of the blundering wizard shows that his strength may lie
more in the villainous than the comedic: his character is never really developed
leaving his portrayal one dimensional and stereotypical at best. Not much can
be said for the performances of Ross and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras either. Ross'
character is your run-of-the-mill cookie-cutter bad guy with no morals while
Wilson-Sampras overplays the made-up preening secretary.
The beginning of the film which is set in 12th-century England is done surprisingly
well from the costumes down to the cinematography; unfortunately this seems
to be where the bulk of the budget was spent. The modern day portion of the film
is sadly lacking especially when juxtaposed against the cold dark and realistically
gloomy feel of the first half. The special effects during the latter portion of
the film seem almost cartoonish and diminish the overall look of the film. While
Just Visiting retains the principal players of its French counterpart
including writer Jean-Marie Poire and director Jean-Marie Gaubert don't expect
this film to achieve a fraction of the success it had on the other side of the
Atlantic. Yet it provides good laughs from start to finish and the best moments
astonishingly enough were not limited to the ones shown in the film's trailer.
James Franco is climbing up in the world.
The "Whatever It Takes" actor is in final talks to join Tobey Maguire in the much-hyped "Spider-Man" feature, Columbia Pictures says today.
In the Sam Raimi big-screen adaptation, Franco would play Harry Osborn, the high school pal and college roommate of Peter Parker, aka Spidey.
Franco is currently shooting the thriller "City By the Sea" with Robert De Niro and has just wrapped the TNT tube-pic "James Dean," wherein he plays the titular rebel.
GOING MOO: The Hollywood Reporter says that Cuba Gooding Jr. and Judi Dench will lend their voices to the Disney animated feature "Sweating Bullets" about a group of cows fighting to save their farm. Sarah Jessica Parker and Ja'Net DuBois have already signed on to do their cow duties, with actor Randy Quaid possibly joining them.
GUILTY AS CHARGED: "The Thin Red Line" and "Frequency" honey James Caviezel will play opposite Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman in the thriller "High Crimes," the Reporter says. The story is about a lawyer (Judd) in charge of defending her hubby (Caviezel) accused of war crimes.
'NATIONAL' TREASURE: Is it a zany comedy in the making or what? Daily Variety says that "Big Daddy" helmer Dennis Dugan and "Happy, Texas" whacky guy Steve Zahn are both in talks to join Martin Lawrence in the comedy "National Security." The film is said to be a mismatched buddy film wherein a white cop is wrongly charged with beating a black man. We're sure it'll be a lot funnier on film.
'VIEW' FINDER: The Reporter says that Kelly Preston will join Gwyneth Paltrow in the comedy "A View From the Top." Preston will play a fellow flight attendant in a story about the rise to fame of an international flight attendant (Paltrow).
'WORD' UP: If TV doesn't work out, there's always the movies. Oliver Platt, whose tube series "Deadline" was just recently pulled by NBC, is closed to signing on to the thriller "Don't Say a Word," Variety says. Platt would co-star with Michael Douglas in the story about a New York shrink (Douglas) whose daughter is kidnapped.
'MIND' AND BODY: "Requiem for a Dream" breakthrough Jennifer Connelly is in talks to star in "Beautiful Mind" with Russell Crowe. According to the Reporter, the story follows the true life of John Forbes Nash Jr., a Nobel Prize winner who suffers from schizophrenia. If all goes well, Connelly would play his wife.
'OCEAN' IN MOTION: Two more down for the count. The Reporter says that Casey Affleck and Scott Caan will join the ensemble cast of the Rat Pack remake "Ocean's Eleven" as Mormon brothers enlisted to pull off a mega Vegas heist. Already on board are George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Alan Arkin.
Years after Earth is destroyed by a hostile alien race (when aren't they
hostile?) a strapping young buck named Cale (Matt Damon) is recruited
for a mission to locate a spaceship that holds the key to human
survival. With the alien baddies on their tail Cale and company are in
a race against time to secure a new home for the Earthlings who have
been left homeless by the Drej.
This brilliant animated sci-fi adventure has the added benefit of a
stellar cast. Other than John Leguizamo who renders a whimsical voice
for the nonhuman navigator Gune the cast refrains from altering their
normal voices instead injecting their regular speech with the type of
emotion sincerity and charm you'd expect from a live-action feature. In
addition to Damon Drew Barrymore is Akima the pilot who catches Cale's
eye; Bill Pullman is the authoritative captain; Nathan Lane is the
suspicious first mate; and Janeane Garofalo is a weapons specialist with
(surprise!) a bad attitude.
In addition to producing "Anastasia " veteran animators Don Bluth and
Gary Goldman are known for creating some of the most popular laser disc
interactive video games and it shows in "Titan A.E." The brilliant
graphics and sophisticated animation here will prompt more than one
double take as you wonder whether what you're seeing is real or
animated. The tapestry that surrounds the characters -- particularly in
the final moments of Earth -- is nothing short of the best animation
ever to hit the big screen. Just one question: What's up with Cale's
naked butt scene and Akima's shower sequence? We haven't seen this much
animated skin since Shelley Winters evacuated the Poseidon.