Monthly Archives: July 2000

Frequency (2000)

I’ll make a confession here. I could’ve been at the national premier for this but decided not to because the premise and especially the trailer put me off so much, I was being very prejudiced. Now that I bit the bullet and ponied up to see the thing I’m so ashamed for those same prejudices. Frequency is a very creative film with some rather touching father-son moments of its own. Director Gregory Hoblit has swiftly directed the film and rescues it when it has the idea of a father/son team up in two different times to track down a serial killer. What you think should veer into cheap melodrama or gimmick stays true through the course. Frequency is a light-hearted, sentimental, yet engaging and worthwhile film I’m very glad to have seen.

Nate’s Grade: B+

Shaft (2000)

Samuel L. Jackson takes on director John Singleton’s remake – shut you mouth! I mean “newer” Shaft and spins it with effortless style and some surprising scenes of wit and even suspense. Shaft used to be a landmark in cinema, and for the black community as well, as it went full forward smashing taboos. It was more of a statement than good art because it wasn’t really art (the character in the novel was white, by the way). Jackson’s Shaft is more of a thug then the kinder gentler lady pleasure that was Richard Roundtree. This Shaft is never once preoccupied with being any landmark but doesn’t strive to be anything more then entertaining fun. The story is what surprised me most because it actually had interesting people and a well told tale. Taking a cue from the Batman franchise the villains are far more interesting and luminous then anyone else, and Christian Bale and a star-making performance by the always talented Jeffrey Wright end up making each of them a wonder on screen. Their chemistry together is worth the price of admission alone, even if you are tired of Bale playing white-collar pretty boys now (he still murders in each though!). Shaft is a loud and fast breath of summer but it’s one that surprising and very entertaining.

Nate’s Grade: B

X-Men (2000)

Take a storied franchise that has long been the backbone of Marvel comics and develop it into a feature film where the last superhero movie was the purple-spandex-in-the-jungle The Phantom and you’re just asking for trouble. A nation of fans is breathing down the neck of the film crew nitpicking every fine detail. Studio execs want the film done as fast as possible and under budget regardless of the numbers of effects needed. Despite what would seem like a cataclysmic set-up, X-Men proves that Hollywood can occasionally take a comic book and get it right. For the most part.

X-Men is basically the pilot for a movie franchise. It sets up characters, conflicts, origins, but periodically forgets its audience. Numerous people are introduced and then given a grocery list size of dialogue to read. Some even have atrocious John Watters-like wigs they are forced to wear. It’s a good thing then that the film centers mainly around Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Magneto (Ian McKellen), the three most interesting characters.

Often times the action in X-Men is surprisingly lackluster and contained. The battle royale finale atop the Statue of Liberty might induce more than a few eye rolls. I can’t help but hope that with all the groundwork laid out with this film that the eventual sequel will be more efficient with its action set pieces.

For the most part the dialogue in X-Men is passable and it even has a few rally snazzy sound bites. However, there is that ONE line delivered by Ms. Berry (“You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightening? The same thing that happens to everything else.”) that is groan-worthy and destined to be notorious.

It may sound like I’m coming down hard on X-Men, but for a comic adaptation it got a whole hell lot more right than wrong. I want to congratulate director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) for the amount of pressure he had looming over his head and what he pulled through with. X-Men is no campy nipple-plate festival but an attempt at possibly serious drama with tortured characters. The whole mutant/racism metaphor may be a little bludgeoned at times but for the most part is handled very well with care. The best aspect X-Men has is its patience. The film is in no rush and takes its time even if it is only like an hour and 40-some minutes. Still, it’s a welcome change in the summer action.

Singer’s direction is smooth and well executed. The casting of the movie is near perfection with some minor exceptions. Stewart and McKellen were born to play their dueling think tank leaders. Jackman is an exciting breakout in a role that was supposed to be occupied by Dougray Scott (thank you MI:-2 delays). I look forward to more from this actor. And does anyone know when young Oscar recipient Anna Paquin became so attractive? Someone buy this casting director a fine steak dinner.

X-Men may have its flaws, one of which is an absolute mundane score, but the film is one of the better summer entries into the world of explosions and noise. I just hope the sequel(s) will be a tad better.

Nate’s Grade: B

Scary Movie (2000)

If you can’t stomach crude humor perhaps Scary Movie is not the ideal picture for you. If you’re unsure of things like a geyser of semen that could rival any of the inclement weather in A Perfect Storm, some pubic bush-whacking, or the big screen’s first aural sex scene — then turn away now as fast as you can. But for those hungry for the gross-out laughs of There’s Something About Mary though, Scary Movie delivers in spades.

The story of Scary Movie revolves around a cross-section of the Scream trilogy and the J. Love Hewitt ‘Summer’ escapades. The plot is still kept together with ease but always gives sizable room and advantage for the film’s numerous parodies and slapstick. All of the typical high school clich├ęs are present (naturally played by actors in their 20s and 30s). There’s the loudmouth jock who’s short where it counts (Lochlyn Monro), the busty and ditsy beauty queen (Shannon Elizabeth), the virginal Neve-like innocent (fresh-faced newcomer Anna Faris), as well as countless stoner buddies following the antics of Shorty (Marlon Wayans) among others. Together along with roaming newscaster Gale Hailstorm (SNL‘s Cheri Oteri) and “special” police officer Doofy everyone tries staying one step ahead of our black-hooded fiend’s list.

Scary Movie ruthlessly skewers not only the works of horror author Kevin Williamson but along the road are ‘American Pie’ like teen sex farces and just about anything else you can think of. The lampooning establishes parodies of The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project with a hilarious close-up of Oteri, Amistad, the Budweiser “Wassup” commercials, and one movie I won’t even mention as to not give away one of the film’s best spoofs for a great ending. Scary Movie is a movie rich in laughter of all sorts as well as pure guaranteed shock value. The cast even parodies their own source actors perfectly with Shawn Wayans doing a perfect drooling of Matthew Liliard and officer Doofy as a perfect representation of David Arquette.

Director Keenen Ivory Wayans’ Scary Movie doesn’t just wrestle with bad taste; it gleefully rolls around in it. But that’s exactly how it leaves its audience – rolling with laughter. Scary Movie is easily the funniest movie of the year and will likely stay that way. It’s also the first movie in years that I have actually walked out of with my face aching from so much laughter. Scary Movie will be this year’s word-of-mouth sensational smash as it smashes taboos and taste full-ahead, trust me on this one.

Nate’s Grade: B+

The Perfect Storm (2000)

Come sail away kiddies on a three hour tour into the belly of two hurricanes colliding with ladies man George Clooney as yer skipper. Mark Wahlberg plays a… well I don’t know, but I know he has Diane Lane waiting for him at home and I do know she needs to be in more movies. Plus an assorted group of people all needing money and risking their lives for the catch of their lives in director Wolfgang Petterson’s newest saga. But basically, and I’ll keep the water puns to a minimum, the film is all wet.

The Perfect Storm manages to soak you with waves of cliches. It wants you to care for these characters, hell it spends half the movie setting up their lives, but never cements them as people but only selfish caricatures. The exposition of the fishing community is a tiresome run of every small town cliche where everybody knows everybody, to the larger woman everyone associates as “mom,” to the old grizzled sea dog permanently fixed to his bar stool. Basically, be glad when the boys go off to sea and leave this place.

How come everyone in the film has a New Englanda’ accent except for Clooney? It’s that type of movie. The acting can’t save this picture especially when the only performance of notice is the reliable John C. Reilly. His is the only character who doesn’t come off as a selfish braggart or just an idiot.

What should be the film’s high-point with the mono-a-mono wrestle with Mother Nature eventually collapses on itself. How many times can you see Clooney get splashed in the face before familiarity and boredom set in? Trust me, it’s not many. The Perfect Storm‘s effects are dutifully impressive as water is a very tricky mistress, but couldn’t there have been a story behind it?

Just when you’re not trying to tune out the guitar jackhammer score or not to dwell on Clooney’s cringe-worthy “swordfish captain” speech you see flashes of what The Perfect Storm had going but never surfaced. Instead we get water-logged plots, water-logged stars, and plenty of syrupy sentiment. It’ll be this year’s Armageddon for the under 16 girls.

Nate’s Grade: C

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