Monthly Archives: May 2003

A Video Review of “The Lathe of Heaven” (1980)

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

This production based on the Ursula K. LeGuin novel and starring Bruce Davison (Willard, Six Degrees of Separation, X-Men), Kevin Conway (Black Knight, The Funhouse) and Margaret Avery (The Return of Superfly, The Color Purple) was brought to the small screen in the early days of public television. It remains legendary as one of PBS’ greatest dramatic accomplishments.

* SPOILER WARNING *

The story is that of George Orr (Davison), a man whose dreams come true. Whatever he dreams becomes reality. After a suicide attempt he comes under the capacity of Dr. Haber (Conway) who upon learning Orr’s secret uses it to change the world.

However george’s mind doesn’t play fair. Haber tries to end racism, everyone turns gray. He wants to stop overpopulation, a plague kills six billion people. He tries for peace on earth, aliens attack the moon. In each case Haber gets a bigger nicer office and eventually his own dream institute.

A brilliant novel and a brilliant film. It is a great production considering the budget constrictions of PBS at the time. The unique synthesized score is also of note.

Definitely catch this if you can.

PROBABLY THE BEST GEEK MOVIE EVER MADE

A Video Review of “Free Enterprise”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

This movie is so chockfull of geek cool if it had more cursing in it I would swear this was the work of the master Kevin Smith.

Free Enterprise is the story of a group of friends, who happen to be film geeks, comic geeks and Trekkies, approaching their mid-life crises. There also the added feature of William Shatner who apparently is making quite a career in films portraying himself. He’s very good at that and I’m only being 50% sarcastic.

Amongst offering his standard get-a-life advice and getting help for his own woman problems Shatner wants to do a rap musical version of “Julius Caesar.” Don’t laugh. It’s funny but it’s true and it pays off. Wait for it. “No Tears for Caesar” by The Artist Formerly Known as Shatner is an experience that cannot be lived without.

The for the most part unknown cast also includes big name Eric McCormack whose role and performance here is so excellent and different from his work on “Will and Grace” that it’s a shame he’s been stereotyped there. Phil LaMarr is also in the film but as his geek work as the cartoon voices of superheroes Green Lantern and Static should cement it’s no surprise he took the part. Big surprise here is the return to work of “Too Close for Comfort” star Deborah Van Walkenberg who’s actually very good although decades older.

As I said this is a geek movie. It has references overflowing from its cleavage. I can’t imagine any ‘normal’ person walking in from the street and even understanding this masterpiece. Only a geek would get everything from “Star Trek,” Logan’s Run and Basic Instinct to Fellini, scary 1980s new wave music and Mighty Isis action figures from Mego. It’s a geek’s paradise and it also has a good plot, good acting and is an altogether great movie. And only a geek could appreciate the wet dream-like fantasy of meeting a hot chick in a comics shop while fighting over a “Sandman” hardcover.

The only thing I didn’t like – the threesome – seems like it was put in just to say Ha! Geeks do have a sex life, and a full one for that matter. This is bothersome. As the geeks who made the movie and the geeks they made it for well know, everybody has sex, whether everybody else knows it or not. This seems a bit too much to press the point. Regardless I hated all two minutes of the threesome. And for all you perves with your finger on the pause button, it’s not even worth your time. It’s a plot point.

Do not miss the end credits. Extra points to the geek who gets every reference. They are the best credits this side of Airplane! and in some cases funnier than the film itself which is hilarious – don’t miss. I love this movie.

Rating: *****

***** Must see

**** Worth seeing

*** So you have eight dollars you want to throw away…

** Is Adam Sandler in this mess?

* A bullet would be quicker.

HOT CHICKS IN HOT OUTFITS

A Film Review of “The Cell”

Copyright 2001 Glenn Walker

Virtual reality, cyberspace, inside the human mind, the imagination. In a sci-fi movie these are all excuses to get hot chicks in hot outfits. Mix in some hokey plot, a perverse serial killer and Jennifer Lopez, shake well and you have The Cell.

Jennifer Lopez plays a child psychologist who uses VR to enter the minds of her catatonic patients and help them. There’s your set up and the excuse for million dollar (well spent) special effects.

The concept: Vincent D’onoffrio in one of his more disturbing roles is a serial killer who likes to kill his female victims by timed remote control drowning. He goes comatose with a victim still out there, J-Lo has to enter his mind to find the girl. Detective Vince Vaughn comes along for the ride.

There’s your plot, much more difficult to explain than to understand. In the flick it flows much better. The VR scenes are both visually mind-blowing and disturbing. The evil mind of the serial killer contains such bizarre imagery if you aren’t completely under the spell of suspension of disbelief you might start thinking what kind of nutjob would come up with this twisted stuff.

And of course, the best part, a hot chick in hot outfits. Thank you, Jennifer Lopez.

TOO TRUE TO BE REAL

A Video Review of “Ed Gein” also known as “In the Light of the Moon”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

The real Ed Gein was quite a piece of work. In late 1957 he was convicted of necrophilia, cannibalism and of course murder. He was perhaps America’s first famous serial killer. He was the inspiration for both Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and to a degree probably Tom Harris’ Hannibal Lector. Who knows, he probably inspired other real serial killers as well.

The film Ed Gein opens and closes with real footage of the real man, his arrest, his neighbors and his home. In some ways this verification that it really happened is more startling than what appears at first to be just another horror movie.

Of course most of the movie is speculation because for the time Gein spent in a mental hospital until his death in 1984 he said little and, unlike predecessors like Charles Manson, never talked to the press. As far as based on truth this film suffers from the same disease as Oliver Stone’s Nixon, no one was around to witness most of the scenes depicted.

Ed Gein is ably played by the creepy Steve Railsback who also coincidentally played Charles Manson in the TV mini-series “Helter Skelter.” Gein’s domineering mother is portrayed by horror veteran Carrie Snodgress (Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Fury).

It is slow at points but very involving. It is a matter knowing what’s coming and not knowing what’s coming, a kind of a twisted suspense as demented as the film’s subject. There are some disturbing images recreated by prop folks as far as Gein’s house, furnishings and ultimately Gein’s hallucinations and the murder scenes themselves. The horror is more in the truth than on the screen.

See it at your own risk. Gein may be the inspiration for today’s serial killers but he was also one of the worst as well as the first.

THE LORD OF BULLSHIT

A Video Review of “The Kid Stays in the Picture”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Robert Evans is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Without him such classic films as The Godfather, Rosemary’s Baby and Love Story would never have been made. He ran Paramount Studios. He has been involved with some of the world’s most beautiful and famous (and not so beautiful and famous) women. The scandals of his life have been tragic and the talk of the town. He also created such dogs as Popeye and the remakes of The Saint and The Out-of-Towners. He is the inspiration for the Robert Vaughn character in S.O.B. and the Dustin Hoffman character in Wag the Dog. His personal exploits are mythic and his life has been immortalized in The Kid Stays in the Picture.

Unfortunately he is also the lord of bullshit. You can’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth. It seems like maybe he was still using the cocaine that led to his downfall when he wrote the book this film was based on. We are always treated to Robert Evans’ take, always his opinion, always his mix of myth and truth. The Robert Evans quote that opens the film states his philosophy on lying that it serves everyone differently. How true.

We start at the beginning following Evans’ career from his discovery by Norma Shearer at a Beverly Hills swimming pool to star as her late husband Irving Thalberg in 1957’s The Man with a Thousand Faces with James Cagney to his tragic downfall with the failure of The Cotton Club in 1984 surrounded by lurid cocaine and murder scandals regarding the death of filmmaker and drug dealer Roy Radin.

The details in between include his proving himself to Daryl Zanuck that he could play the bullfighter in The Sun Also Rises from which the documentary’s title is taken; Zanuck’s quote. We also see him get Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra divorced to finish Rosemary’s Baby, him bagging both Ali MacGraw and Love Story to save Paramount Studios, him battle endlessly with Francis Ford Coppola over The Godfather, the triumph of Chinatown and the failure of The Cotton Club.

The Kid Stays in the Picture is worth sitting through if only to hear Evans’ humiliating voiceover imitation of Mia Farrow. A fun drinking game can be made of how many times he says, “How could I have been so fucking dumb?” Hmmph. Easily. Did I mention he was the lord of bullshit?

No matter what was really true or really false kudos have to be granted to directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen because they have created a documentary so compelling you forget you’re watching a documentary. The graphics, clips and fades are extraordinary, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Bravo for making a masterpiece out of lies.

For more of my movie reviews check out:

Comic Widows at

http://www.comicwidows.com

or the Internet Movie Database at

http://www.imdb.com

Contact me at

monsura2@yahoo.com

NOT YOUR AVERAGE SIX-FOOT RABBIT

A Video Review of “Donnie Darko”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Jake Gyllenhaal is most often confused with Tobey Maguire. He was even up for the role of Spider-Man which Maguire ably snagged. He’s done some eclectic films in the past from Bubble Boy to The Good Girl. Eclectic is where he parallels Maguire. Maguire’s early film choices were quirky as well and this is why I believe big things are in store for Jake Gyllenhaal.

Jake plays the title role of a disturbed young man haunted by his delusions which started when a jet engine fell into his bedroom, no really. Also featured here are the always amazing Drew Barrymore as a put upon but well meaning English teacher and the interestingly cast Patrick Swayze as a motivational speaker whose psychobabble has infected a local school district. The science teacher Noah Wyle is as good here as he is as Dr. Carter on “ER.” Capable but good.

Set in 1988 it has a wonderful 1980s new wave soundtrack. The principal standout is a quiet mellow version of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” at the end of the film. Powerful.

Donnie Darko is a tale of a disturbed young man who begins to follow the directions of a six-foot rabbit named ‘Frank.’ Now just back off before you begin to make any comparisons to the classic Jimmy Stewart film Harvey. This is a whole different animal. Frank gives young Donnie orders of a sociopathic nature getting him into more trouble than your usual high schooler.

This dark story descends from there into a spiraling vortex of delusion and science fiction. It keeps you guessing from one moment to the next as to what is really going on until the shock ending. Very disturbing, enthralling and must see.

JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH

A Video Review of “Enough”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Enough. Haven’t we had enough of this type of movie? I mean, we’ve seen this before, right? Husband beats wife, wife gets even. The Burning Bed and Sleeping with the Enemy did this before but Enough is a step up.

* Spoiler Warnings *

The movie is constructed well, the vignettes labeled with chapter titles in a way we don’t see anymore in feature films (well outside of Kevin Smith, that is). It does well to disguise how episodic Enough really is. This is a good thing, turning your disadvantages into advantages.

For the first hour we are sailed through an almost never-ending catalog of places and characters but as I said we don’t mind with the structure of this film. Like the villain of the piece, Enough is built like an action thriller even though it may or may not be.

The tough thing about a movie like this is you know going in that the husband is an asshole. It kind of takes all the suspense away. You can’t even bring yourself to like the character even when he’s the nicest sweetest thing you’ve ever seen. That said, Billy Campbell is properly evil as the abusive husband. He is as diabolic as any super-villain or world conqueror in a different genre of movie.

It doesn’t matter what Jennifer Lopez is in or what she’s doing, the camera loves her. Even here where we’re led to believe she’s ‘not that attractive’ it’s a tough suspension of disbelief call. It’s always nice to see Juliette Lewis in a part where she’s not mental. She’s rational, wrong-minded in some cases, but rational. Fred Ward is, well, he’s always Fred Ward, and he’s good for what little screen time he has.

The real surprise here is Noah Wyle of “ER” fame. He exudes that same Dr. John Carter charm we see every week and we get the impression that maybe he’s a one note actor. He turns out to be as evil and manipulative as his buddy Billy Campbell. It’s a great performance.

In the last twenty minutes or so after some belief-stretching Batman and James Bond-ian preparation and training J-Lo tries to get even with her husband. I have to stop at this point and wonder how much the writer, the director and even J-Lo wanted this to be a superhero movie. Hmmm…

Other than the obvious anti-domestic abuse and woman empowerment statements there’s also another lesson being taught here. Money and power can get you anything. Between the evil Billy Campbell and the good Fred Ward money is able to buy technology, training, surveillance and even police. Scary but true.

Whatever this movie wants to be or pretends to be one thing stands true – it’s good. Check it out. It’s worth it.

For more of my movie reviews check out:

Comic Widows at

http://www.comicwidows.com

or the Internet Movie Database at

http://www.imdb.com

Contact me at

monsura2@yahoo.com

LONGER DARKER BETTER

A Film Review of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

This was a very fast movie or at least it seemed like it went by fast. This is a good thing. To me, one of the signs of a bad movie is when you start looking at your watch.

As opposed to the first installment Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, there seems to be quite a bit omitted from the book but it should also be noted that the first book is the shortest and they all get longer from there. I’m sure no one wants to see movies longer than three hours.

There’s no set up for this one. If you’ve seen the first film you know what’s up so here they just jump in and go for it. You know the players, you know the score, hold on for the ride.

The tone is darker and the story is more energetic. The flying car is exciting, the kids are settled into their roles and Voldemort is more menacing if not as horrific as in the first film. The special effects are top notch which again is no surprise. You can feel the spiders as they approach on the screen.

As stated before the child actors have grown into their parts. The viewers no longer think of them as the actors playing Harry, Ron and Hermione but actually as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Kenneth Branaugh is exactly as I imagined Gilderoy Lockhart to be. Richard Harris is Dumbledore, it’s a shame he won’t be in the next films.

Darker, yes, more exciting, yes, even more anticipation for the next one, yes. Bring it on. A year is too long to wait.

Previously published at Comic Widows

http://www.comicwidows.com

CHRIS KATTAN??!?

A Video Review of “House on Haunted Hill” (1999)

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

William Castle, the director of the original House on Haunted Hill was a marketing if not film genius. All of his movies were gimmicked. From special ghost glasses to insurance papers to nurses in the lobby to the granddaddy of them all – wiring seats for electric shock for The Tingler, he was the man. Sadly this remake of one of his lesser classics would have fared better with a gimmick or two.

It has a simple plot, very hard to wreck even in the context of a remake. Guests are invited to a haunted house and offered money if they can survive the night. The house then of course proceeds to wipe them all out in nasty but rating-sensitive ways.

The casting is interesting. Geoffrey Rush, Peter Gallagher, Famke Jansen and Taye Diggs all play one note characters which is especially bad for Rush who is capable of so much more. The casting of “Saturday Night Live” veteran Chris Kattan was very disturbing for me. Besides the point that I have never found any of his antics funny it was hard to take him seriously here when I could not erase images of his SNL ‘monkey boy’ act from my mind. And it’s nice to see Lisa Loeb doing anything at all.

There are numerous nods in this flick to other William Castle masterpieces probably due to the fact his daughter co-produced the new version. Unlike that other haunted house remake The Haunting out the same year which turned out to more art film than horror film House on Haunted Hill is much more accessible, geared to a younger crowd and even has a sense of humor along with its original horror intent.

The new House on Haunted Hill isn’t the original classic and it’s not the best at what it does but it is definitely worth a look.

For more of my movie reviews check out:

Comic Widows at

http://www.comicwidows.com

or the Internet Movie Database at

http://www.imdb.com

Contact me at

monsura2@yahoo.com

Office Killer

DILBERT FROM HELL

A Video Review of “Office Killer”

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

It’s like an evil twin to Haiku Tunnel or Office Space in that it’s just as hilarious as those films but in retrospect I think it’s supposed to be a horror movie. Whatever. It actually works as both.

Carol Kane (Simka of “Taxi”) plays Dorine, a mousy proofreader who has been downsized and then accidentally electrocutes the office computer guy (David Thornton who distractingly looks just like Jimmy Fallon’s similar character from “Saturday Night Live”). Once she gets a taste of killing she proceeds to off the rest of the office staff.


When not absorbed in her work and job Dorine takes care of her ailing mother. Her performance here is disturbingly close to that of Bruce Davison’s in the classic Willard or Scott Jacoby’s in Bad Ronald. Carol Kane is highly underrated.

Molly Ringwold (always a pleasure to see she’s still doing movies), Michael Imperioli (nice to see him outside “The Sopranos”) and Jeanne Tripplehorn (Rene Russo’s perennial stunt double) round out an impressive cast.

Now I’m sure anyone who works or has worked in Cubicle Hell is cheering Dorine on. Me too. It’s a delicious road to murder and wish fulfillment. See it but try not to live it… unless you’re sure you won’t get caught.