Monthly Archives: August 2000

The Cell (2000)

Welcome to the not too distant future where the miracle of science (i.e. red bodysuits and washcloths over people’s faces) allow you to transport your mind into that of another individual. So what happens when a serial killer snags a catch only to be dropped into a coma with no way of discovering where his victim is before time runs out? Well we send Jennifer Lopez into his head — duh! The Latina songstress (and as my girlfriend would say, “Thankfully song-less.”) transports herself to learn the secrets of Mr. Madman before his next victim becomes just a number on a sheet. Sound contrived, like the movie was in production before they had a workable script? You’re not alone. One-named director Tarsem is from the land of music videos but for the life of me I can’t think of one he’s done.

Perhaps the excruciatingly long Nine Inch Nails promo would be less frustrating if the outpourings of creepy imagery meant something. Despite the desire to explain the inside cerebrum of a crazy, 90% of the imagery is there for the simple sake that it looks cool. Lopez plays Alice to a lumbering wonderland of dark images and a mind-numbingly clattering musical score. Would someone please explain to me why a CGI vine grew on screen for five minutes then went away?

Lopez speaks in whispers, Vaughn speaks like he’s on Ritalin, and the movie speaks that if you had abuse as a kid it’s okay to trap women in self-filling aquarium cubes and bleach them into albino Barbies. Won’t see that in your typical after school special.

The Cell may present some things you’ve never seen before, like a jack-in-the-box theme to twirling intestines, but too often it presents things you have seen much too often in film — boredom.

Nate’s Grade: D

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Space Cowboys (2000)

Geezers in space? Consider it the John Glenn biopic. Clint Eastwood teams up with veteran actors James Garner, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones to save the world with the combined aid of Ensure and adult diapers. But these old-timers show some of the “youngins” what movie entertainment is really all about.

Back in the day when the Air Force was in charge of space related programs Clint and his team were the cream of their crop and scheduled to be the first men to enter the dark void of space. Unfortunately NASA was formulated and the boys got the boot for a cosmo chimp. Now 50 years later the earth is threatened by a falling Russian satellite with technology too ancient that only a select group of experienced men still know to this day. So NASA enlists the help of the very men it backhanded so many moons ago to be drafted into a space operation to halt the plummeting satellite.

For a good while Space Cowboys is a breath of fresh air from a veteran team of actors. The rivalry between Jones and Eastwood as well as the young healthy astronauts versus the elderly-shake-your-hand-at-Wal-Mart astronauts makes for great comedy. The entire core group of actors sparkle with terrific chemistry and on screen presence. They create a jovial fun atmosphere that makes the movie humorous and surprisingly engrossing.

Space Cowboys is not liver-spot free. The direction by Eastwood is often flat and very un-engaging. The entire Russian Cold War spy subplot borders on the absurd, and the romances with women that can be their daughters makes vomit rise into my throat whenever I see their leathery faces suck the life out of those young and nubile girls. When the gentlemen get launched into space the entire movie loses focus and forgets what made it before. The typical space rescue themes abound and you know before they get up there that one of them won’t make it back, and probably do something heroic in the first place.

For the most part Space Cowboys is a reminder that the elderly still know how to put on a good show, even if the last fourth is very lackluster. These cowboys can ride off into the sunset content for a job well done.

Nate’s Grade: B-

Boiler Room (2000)

Boiler Room is like a Wall Street for the dot-com kids, hell they even have a scene where they openly quote and recite Glengary Glen Ross. Giovanni Ribisi plays the son of a judge and the head of a gambling front he runs in his home that decides to cut his teeth in the world of stocks and options. Boiler Room begins as an insightful and well-paced inside look toward the cut-throat world that crunches the numbers and keeps the leg of our economy afloat. I find it fascinating that a good base of our economy is based upon round table rumor and the opinions of a select few. But the brash and stirring scenes of the politics of a sell are then given up when the FBI is introduced and Gio tries to take the company out from its dirty inside. The movie then falls to the wayside of entertainment. Boiler Room is a surprisingly engaging film that decides to go down the wrong path.

Nate’s Grade: B

Reindeer Games (2000)

John Frankenheimer comes off from the heels of the incredibly exciting ‘Ronin’ with one of the best car chases ever to direct a muddled holiday thriller that should’ve checked its release date sooner on the calendar. Affleck plays a car thief mistaken for his prison cell mate and hijacked to teach a band of greasy diner clowns the ins and outs or casino theivin’. The performances are all adequate, though Gary Sinise as the bad trucker seems a little too Deliverance to me at times. The movie permeates with the feeling all the way through that something interesting is building and will pay off, and then it just gives up and goes for a ridiculous and cheap twist ending. Ehren Kruger, the man who threw pot holes of twists in Arlington Road and less effectively in Scream 3, writes like someone finishing a deadline paper for a college class – less about characters and conflicts and more about topsy-turvy twists and double crossings. There are some brief encounters with suspense and excitement (and forgive me but the Santa imagery is kinda’ nifty) but Reindeer Games can never build toward whatever potential it flashed.

Nate’s Grade: C

Loser (2000)

Jason Biggs came to fame by getting sexual healing from pastry and Mena Suvari for coming up roses besides Kevin Spacey. So now the two American Pie graduates embark on college in Loser, the latest offering by classic teen comedy director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless).

Loser tells the tale of a self-describe outcast Paul (Biggs) who ventures out of a rural town to the big bad city of New York for college education. Before he leaves he confides to his family his fear that everyone will be “like on Seinfeld.” Upon Paul’s arrival he’s deemed a laughable dolt by his fratboy roomies and even forced to live in an animal shelter. Paul has a difficult time adjusting to the new world until he meets a kindred spirit in the intriguing Dora (Suvari) one day in class. Dora herself is a struggling student not fitting in easily. She even has a secret tryst with her professor played by Greg Kinnear.

All of the characters in Loser other then its leads are one-dimensional cartoons. Paul’s dorm mates start off as mean-spirited brats but then unsettlingly become attempted date rapists with plans involving roofies. Am I the only one bothered that their actions are never dealt with but glossed over? Dora’s relationship with Kinnear only cheapens the intelligence of her character. From the beginning he is a smarmy jerk (as are most in Loser) whose most romantic line consists of “Would you please sit there and just not talk.” What woman wouldn’t fall for someone like that?

Loser is no outright loser though. It does have its funny moments and starts off well enough. Paul and Dora are sweet characters that keep our interest. Kinnear plays a snide jerk well. But somewhere in the middle Loser shifts from what it could have been into what it reluctantly is.

Biggs and Suvari are the only nice people on screen, and it makes little sense that in a world of hipsters that these two would put up with all of their abuse and not see one another. It’s obvious that they should be together except to them, so it’s just a matter of time before they hug and kiss. The movie is basically a waiting game to see when Suvari is going to wise up.

Heckerling has been a strong force for many an influential teen comedy but her latest effort seems like she lost interest somewhere within. Loser had the possibility of being the Clueless for the not-so-in-crowd but instead mimics the title far more than intended.

Nate’s Grade: C

Bless the Child (2000)

How bad is Bless the Child? How bad does bad get? Kim Basinger somehow forgets she actually won an Oscar for something good and takes up the mantle as a nurse or nun or whatever caring for a “special” child. But aren’t they all special in their own way? The child is deemed “the one” and kidnapped by a religious cult led by better-actor-than-this Rufus Sewell. Jimmy Smits comes in somehow as an FBI agent specialized in the field of Satanism. I guess Mulder and Scully couldn’t make the ride. There’s a point in the film where Smits reveals that he entered the bureau so he could have an easier time stopping Satan and his minions. I dare you not to crack a smile from any of this. Is this the movies Jimmy Smits left NYPD Blue over?

The special effects are lame, the story is knee-high in contrivances and loop holes, and the acting is laughable. Christina Ricci has a small part as a reformed cultist that shouldn’t even register if you pay attention – which requires more skill than you would believe. The dialogue in Bless the Child is laughably bad along the lines of Battlefield Earth smack yourself in the head. It’s not as mind-numbingly horrible to sit through, but it’s pure cheese no matter what sheep’s skin it hides under.

Nate’s Grade: D

What Lies Beneath (2000)

I cannot write any review of What Lies Beneath without it also turning into an essay on old people. And so fellow reader I give you… “Nate’s Essay on the Movie Watching Habits of the Elderly or: What Lies Beneath the Review.” [Editor’s note: his review was written originally by a testy and somewhat snide 18-year-old me, so please excuse the ageism attack on elderly movie habits, not that there isn’t still truth to this.]

The tale is one of a happily married couple who are just going through the empty-nest syndrome when their only daughter leaves home for college. Michelle Pfeiffer is a strung out house wife trying to fill up her days and enjoy time with her Harrison Ford-like husband. But all is not well in the house. Michelle starts experiencing visions of ghosts in bath water (bathtubs play a huge role in this flick, bigger than red in Sixth Sense likely) as well as coincidental things that you know aren’t at all coincidental. How many times does the door have to open for you by itself before you put two and two together? Anyway Michelle comes undone and tries telling her husband of her spirit stalkings but he believes she’s crazy. In the end we all know it’s the dead spirit of Ford’s mistress mainly because of the trailer and commercials giving us every twist a la Double Jeopardy. I will say this, the last twenty minutes are ludicrous and laughably bad.

Beneath could be argued as an homage to Hitchcock, but that would be slandering Hitchcock. Hitch could hold an audience, show them new things, and play a crowd like a piano. All What Lies Beneath did was put me to sleep.

What Lies Beneath is supposed to be an “adult” scary picture but does no more but define its intentions with the overused but reliable and disappointing jump scare. A jump scare never truly scares but only startles – usually brought on by a loud BANG! in the orchestral score. But no one admires jump scares. No child grows up wishing he can make the ultimate jump scare movie because it’s basically a cheap reaction or reflex. Build an entire concept of “scariness” on this principle and it’s even cheaper. Old people fall for every one of them too and then sit back loudly talking to their friends about how they were had.

Old people are far more talkative through movies then children, teenagers, and people who frequent seizures combined! This isn’t one single occurrence as well, the same thing happened when I saw The Patriot and subsequently Space Cowboys. Old people talk constantly throughout a movie carrying on conversations loudly as if they weren’t watching a film but rather a child playing in the distance. It’s even more difficult to pay attention to a dull film when you keep hearing everyone’s stories around you, though one man’s story of holiday cooking had me at “hello.”

In short stay away from What Lies Beneath or any movie that skews to a demographic that watches reruns of Murder She Wrote. Old people may enjoy their movies… just don’t see any with them if you have the choice.

Nate’s Grade: C-

Chicken Run (2000)

I strongly urge everyone out there if ever given the opportunity to see this movie. Do not confuse Chicken Run as a “kids only” affair while you yourself sneak into something “better.” This movie is easily the best movie of this lackluster summer of commercial perpetual bile, and possibly one of the better if not best films of the year. It’s no secret I have an affinity for animation and the claymation choices of directors Nick Park and Peter Lord, of Wallace and Gromit fame, give the characters real emotion. I can just look at one of the chickens in the eye and feel emotion that I couldn’t get seeing many Hollywood films. The cinematography and animation is lush, vibrant, and breathtakingly beautiful. The story is fresh, wonderfully hilarious, and even touching. The voice artists are terrific, with Miranda Richardson pulling out as my favorite for her delightfully vile Mrs. Tweedy. Treat yourself to one of the very few decent movies this summer and see the incredible fun of Chicken Run, and if you still feel conflicted it has Mel Gibson in it. And if you still feel bad you can say you got lost on your way to the rest room.

Nate’s Grade: A

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