January 31, 2002 5:51am EST
A group of high school seniors put a boy who is eager to become part of their clique through a cruel initiation prank that involves jumping off some sort of high scaffolding into a cloudy pool at a local cement factory. When one of them Landon (Shane West) gets caught the principal decides Landon needs to hang with a different crowd and assigns him to tutor kids on the weekend and take part in the drama club's spring play. Surprise-the plan works! In over his head with the play Landon seeks help from Jamie (Mandy Moore) a dowdy bible-thumper who apparently only owns one ratty cardigan. Jamie however is not your run-of-the-mill unpopular girl. Rather than being introverted and weird she is smart witty and confident-in fact that grubby sweater of hers seems to be the only thing branding her as an outcast. The two grow closer and Landon eventually sees her inner beauty forgoing his own A-list status to be with her. But Landon learns that Jamie has been keeping a secret from him that inevitably blocks their path to happiness.
Moore the underdog of the teen pop stars dyes her hair brown and dulls herself down for the role of Jamie a simple girl that loves to gaze at the stars in her spare time. She did a great job transforming herself into her character but in the process extinguished most of what makes her sparkle on screen. Mind you the script might be to blame for creating a character so unbelievably mundane and one-dimensional. Under all of Jamie's goodness and perfection is well nothing. West does a great job portraying his character transformation. Even while Landon runs with the bad crowd West conveys a sense of humility in the character. Peter Coyote plays Reverend Sullivan Jamie's over-protective father without being too overbearing which is refreshing. An almost unrecognizable and weathered Daryl Hannah has a small but convincing enough role as Landon's mother. Maybe it was her now-brunette hair but I didn't realize it was Hannah until I saw the credits.
In A Walk to Remember director Adam Shankman steered away from being overly sentimental. The relationship that develops between the teens is actually very sweet and interestingly enough the film ends up being more about Landon's transformation than about Jamie's faith. While the film is not as flaky as the rash of recent teen movies it still manages to fall into the same clichés. Though the story is very-dare I say-poignant characters like Jamie's in trying to be different have become a stereotype: The plain Jane whose personality and convictions win over the popular guy. Remember Andie (Molly Ringwald) in Pretty in Pink? Or more recently Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) in She's All That? And though Moore has a beautiful melodic voice her singing scenes are too drawn out. We are not just treated to her crooning a chorus or two of a song during a church scene but the songs in their entirety. Even Mariah Carey spared us that much in Glitter.
Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub) is trying to keep his small family together after losing his wife and the mother of their kids Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) in a tragic fire that left them homeless. Out of nowhere one enigmatic Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) wills Arthur a bizarre yet dazzlingly beautiful mansion made almost entirely of glass and filled with priceless antiques. There's not much that could go unseen behind the transparent walls except for perhaps 12 pesky ghosts of disturbed folks like onetime mental patients and a kid whose head got in the way of an arrow. It just so happens old Cyrus with the help of his psychic phantom-wrangler Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) has been summoning up a few restless spirits so he can open the Eye of Hell and take over the world or something. They just need one more spirit to finish the job.
All right who's blackmailing Oscar-winner Abraham into taking roles like this? The man should have thrown the script out sight-unseen and then fired his agent. Rah Digga yet another rapper-turned-wanna-be-actress is there to offer some sassy comic relief as the kids' nanny--she's fun in a usual sort of way. Shalhoub-ho hum. Elizabeth? Yawn. She's not even in half the movie. Lillard it can be said is about the only bright spot in this otherwise not-silly-enough not-cheesy-enough not-funny-or-scary-enough horror movie. He's got the right idea as he tries to camp it up as a borderline hysterical psychic who has guilt issues about being able to see everyone's secrets with his "gift." But worst of all is the usually great Embeth Davidtz (um Schindler's List?!) as a--get this--ghost's rights activist who thinks she's channeling Zelda Rubenstein from Poltergeist as she hisses the obvious: "This house is not a house!"
The only thing scarier than F. Murray Abraham taking a role in this movie is that it ever got made at all--then again we have the Dark Castle folks (the same ones who brought us that masterpiece remake The Haunting a few years ago) to thank. They forgot to hire a director and a scriptwriter instead putting visual effects guy Steve Beck behind the camera to show us some semi-interesting special effects (it is a ghost movie after all and you better score some points there). Unfortunately the movie is uneven makes little sense and strives for both laughs and scares but achieves neither with cornball dialog and silly stereotypes; it's wildly gory to boot. Everyone's gonna say the ultra-modern haunted house is the star of Thirteen Ghosts and with good reason. The production design in this movie is amazing and the idea of ghosts hiding behind clear walls is an intriguing if ultimately wasted concept.
CANNES, May 15, 2000 -- There are two sides (at least) to everything, right? For example, at the exact same time you want to keep dancing at the tres late rooftop party, you also want to fall asleep for the next 18 hours. At the same time you want to do yoga, you long for a warm chocolate crepe. Marlon Wayans wants to be here to celebrate his role in Darren Aronofsky's (his post-"Pi" flick) new movie, "Requiem for a Dream" at the same time he has to be in Los Angeles for the birth of his new baby. But that's the Cannes Film Festival. The French keep the eternal paradox alive and well.
Other festival tidbits:
-- "A wise man once said everyone would be famous for 15 minutes..." mumbles a voice as Griffin Dunne's new movie, "Famous" starts. Okay, so we all know about that 15 minutes thing, but what co-writing co-stars Laura Kirk and Nat DeWolf and Griffin, who plays a documentarian, want to know is, what happens the five minutes before that fabulous quarter hour.
Mira Sorvino This dead-on hilarious and painful story (the two go together don't they?) follows Lisa Picard, a 29-year-old struggling actress in New York City. Adding to the fun in this terrific comedy is a mix of uncredited celeb cameos (Carrie Fisher, Spike Lee, Penelope Ann Miller, Charlie Sheen, Melissa Gilbert and Sandra Bullock). "Famous" also marks Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino's producing debut.
-- Once you have your 15 minutes of fame you can always book a room and swim in the famous azure pool built into the cliff that flows into the sea. But they only take cash, which is a slight problem this year since the French franc suppliers are on strike and most of the ATM's are dry as a bone.
-- Two films by cinematic royalty, presented Sunday night with glittering fanfare -- "The Golden Bowl," a costume drama presented by Merchant Ivory and featuring Nick Nolte, Uma Thurman and Angelica Houston; and, "Faithless" written by Ingmar Bergman and directed by Liv Ullmann. Both films were more pewter than gold. To be more specific (and OK, meaner) in "The Leaden Bowl" not only do you already know what's going to happen, nobody gets around to doing it for over two hours. And as for Liv Ullmann, she tells us everything and then proceeds to show us everything, twice managing to skip the good parts.
-- Sunday was no day of rest here. It's one thing to enjoy the spectacle of our most popular stars floating up those traditional red steps but it's quite another to turn a corner in the busy corridors of the Carlton Hotel and run into the very friendly and sweet Chris Rock along with that girl-next-door Renee Zellweger and their talented director Neil LaBute. Even here, stars "take meetings." Their movie, "Nurse Betty" has a great shot at actually winning the Palme d'Or (although merit never guarantees victory, don't we know?)
-- Let's face it. The French and their famous Cannes Film Festival have "Un Certain Reputation" for major style and just as major attitude. This means, no matter what's planned, you never really know what's going to happen next which is definitely part of the fun and excitement. But only the French could have a quiet security alert (read: bomb threat) in just a small part of the Palais (yes, it's one huge building complex) as the totally unaware paparazzi continue to bellow as the fans howl into the night. It happened here on Saturday. Happily not a sequin was disturbed and everything was okay.
-- It's just these kind of eccentric idiosyncrasies that artists and brothers, Ethan and Joel Coen revel in. Their latest film, "O Brother, Where Art Though?" stars the usual suspects, John Turturro, Holly Hunter and John Goodman with the classy addition of George Clooney. This twisted and funny (but, of course) jailbreak story is in the competition. We'll see if the Coens shake the Golden Palm one more time. (In 1991, they won the award for "Barton Fink.")
Hopefully this will be a festival where there are no bombs of any kind. (Yeah, right.)