Sunday, December 30, 2007


Columbia TriStar
Slogan No. 1: Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold.
Slogan No. 2: Two Guns Are Better Than One.
Slogan No. 3: Payback Is a Bitch...Named Maria.

Obviously, that last slogan is the best. The first is, of course, an old Klingon saying, and the second is obvious, but the third has the makings of a very handy and versatile catch phrase. I know I'll be using it often, substituting the name of whichever two-timing hussy has most recently shattered my world. "A Richard Johns Production" of "A Film by Bharat Nalluri" "Introducing Kendra Torgan" as the rail-thin model-slash-assassin, this La Femme Nikita/Long Kiss Goodnight "homage" has an appealing European darkness. Even though there's almost no nudity and long talky sequences doubtless inserted to pad the film to feature length, there are songs by U2 and Portishead. See it with someone who's been hired to kill you but whom you plan to double-cross. PLAY.

Slogan: Revenge Lies Just Beneath the Surface.
I think I like the Universal logo the best. You know, the words orbiting around our planet, which is spinning happily in bright outer space. But that ended quickly, and then I was staring at Ally Sheedy, who looks like she's auditioning to play Karen Carpenter. Director Tim Matheson is also looking undead, but he's supposed to be. If you missed Buried Alive I, don't worry—that whole story is retold. And then retold again, as the plot to this movie. The creepiest thing about this film is the discussion of mortuary techniques and embalming practices. EJECT.

Columbia TriStar
Slogan: Five Kids. One Sea Lion. No Rules.
"A Barnet Kellman Film" has even less meaning when it is "A Sheinberg Production." That's Sid, Bill, and Jon, but the latter two don't count: They're the kids. Daddy Sid was the longtime No. 2 at Universal before tiring of the Japanese way of business after the company's takeover. He formed "The Bubble Factory" to keep his hand in. Mr. Spielberg considers Mr. Sheinberg a mentor—was married to his niece for a while. I bring this up because this "Columbia TriStar Family Collection" offering has all the markings of an executive-commissioned work. It's a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of another film (Free Willy), and the script is an assemblage of sitcom-level verbal and visual clichés, the usual result of creative input from the marketing department. Worse (but typically), the kids speak like cynical college freshmen. What is more annoying than cynical college freshmen? Instead of offering precocious kids doing normal kid stuff—à la Our Gang/Little Rascals—Slappy forces adult language and attitude into children's mouths. The relentless coarse humor may appeal to youngsters, but such a diet is harmful to their development and the future of our society. B.D. Wong gets to sing Gilbert & Sullivan, and Bronson Pinchot gets yet another paycheck. Verdict: Not enough slappy, too much stinky. EJECT.

Cabin Fever
The indie-film quirksters are out in force in this "A Peter Markle Film": Dennis Hopper, Michael Madsen, Kiefer Sutherland, and Daryl Hannah, who, as an actress-hooker-addict struggling to change her life, says, "Come on, touch my butt." Oh, that was a scene I played over and over and over. And over. Frankie is much grimmer than it needs to be, but Hopper is quite affecting as a dim loser. As has been pointed out elsewhere in these pages, Kiefer has been taking Shatner lessons. And Daryl makes an excellent Bettie Page. I was touched. PLAY.

New Line
Slogan: They've Got 24 Hours to Stop a Package, Prevent a Disaster, and Fall in Love.
D.C. homeboy Walter Egan's only hit, 1978's "Magnet and Steel," is actually integral to the story of this "A Film by Jason Bloom." We hear it several times, once played by Matthew Sweet. My band was on the same bill as Walt's when he played in the local group Sageworth & Drums. Twice, in fact; the gigs were about a year apart. And Walt's band played the same set each time. None of which was as catchy as "Magnet and Steel." I bring this up to avoid discussing this John Hughesish tale of opposites attracting to find perfect love. The wacky complications depend entirely on forcible and random avoidance of the rational. Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd are watchable; Blondie and Stevie Wonder are on the soundtrack. PAUSE.

Film Kitchen
Slogan: Born White Trash, Going Nowhere Fast.
This really is "A Kirk Harris Film" because it stars Kirk Harris. He plays a guy who is such a loser that he steals a Chevy Cavalier. A scrappy, ultra-low-budget work that arrives with much praise from the festival circuit, it's often fairly sluggish—but I like any movie that has the line "Coming to the party tonight?" PAUSE.

Slogan: Do You Know Anyone Whose Life Turned Out Like They Planned?
Bless Jon Cryer for actively working to give the DTV genre something other than monsters, martial arts, and massive mammaries. Not that there's anything wrong with those. And at times during this talk-fest about whining almost-thirtysomethings, a naked breast or beast might have been welcome. As it is, all the women look like Nancy Kerrigan. We also hear the same "I missed Woodstock" riff that was in Cryer's The Pompatus of Love. More glib than insightful, the characters wait the entire movie to discover the blatantly obvious. The credits thank Robert Wagner. I'd like to thank Robert Wagner, too: Thanks, R.J. PAUSE.

Next month: Tony, Tony, Tony!

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