SECTION SIXTEEN
MOVIE REVIEW

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COLUMN SEVENTY-SIX, OCTOBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)

MOVIE COMPARISON: SIGNS vs MINORITY REPORT

With reviews of FULL FRONTAL, K-19, and UFAITHFUL

1. FILM: SIGNS

2002 - USA - 106 min. - Feature * Director: M. Night Shyamalan * Rating: PG13 * Release: Aug 2, 2002 (USA) Touchstone Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan begins with an excellent premise, a 500-foot crop circle that mysteriously appears in Bucks County, PA. The plot twists numerous times building from previous sci-fi horror classics, blatant rips of Hitchcock, The Thing From Another World, Night Of The Living Dead, even Children Of The Corn.   Mel Gibson's role as former padre Graham Hess is poorly acted, with Shyamalan spending more time on the facial close-ups than head turning character development. The psychology of a man who has lost his wife is lost on Gibson, who at this point, looks good for a middle-aged actor, but fails to resonate with the kind of brilliance the equally overused Michael Douglas somehow gave us in Wonder Boys or Gibson himself gave us in 1993's The Man Without A Face. It is a rarity when the Martin Sheens, the Michael Douglases, the Mel Gibson types are able to dig into their soul and give us a run for our $8.75, Hollywood needing to find new leading men. We'll discuss this with the Liam Neeson/Harrison Ford film K-19 further down this review. Joaquin Phoenix uses his rugged good looks to show Chris O'Donnell, someone with similar attractive features, how it is done. As John Belushi has taken over for late brother Jim, so too Joaquin has gone steps beyond his brother River. Phoenix's passive fury steals the show, as does Abigail Breslin, who might as well be the little girl, Carol Ann, of Poltergeist. Cherry Jones as Officer Caroline Paski could be the detective in Bill Pullman's murder mystery thriller, 1993's Malice, bringing up the question: why are directors today copping old riffs and recycling them with such vigor? There's no Ann Bancroft breathtaking scene as the drunk mother-in-law. Indeed,

Shyamalan attempts that and turns his Hitchcock cameo into a full-length movie moment---while James Newton Howard's soundtrack is an amalgam of old Alfred's music pouring over the opening credits. Is it a fun movie? Sure. Have we seen it all before? Absolutely! Is it a classic?

Where the initial eeriness of the cornfields and the glimpses of the spaceman/spacemen---especially the scene on the roof---have all the makings of a very special flick, the film, like its star, opens strong, and follows Mel Gibson down the path of/to parody. This is not as compelling as The Sixth Sense, in which the equally redundant Bruce Willis tutors that year's Macaulay Culkin clone Haley Joel Osment (cloned again in A.I.)---and what subliminal message is M. Night sending when he uses the younger brothers of two very famous actors in one film?

Is it a family affair? The dysfunction is strained with none of the trauma of Unbreakable, of The Sixth Sense, or of A.I.  

There are scary moments, my pen went flying ten feet in front of me to the silver screen itself, but those moments won't translate to DVD and television.  ##

* * *

VERSUS:
2. FILM: THE MINORITY REPORT

Colin Farrell is the hunk of the year, and had he and Joaquin Phoenix ran into Olivier Martinez in Unfaithful, or those three hooked up with David Duchovny for Full Frontal, that Julia Roberts film would not be the bust that it is. But we'll pit that against K-19 after this report on CD Rom Cruise and Steven Spielberg.

The Minority Report was the opportunity for Tom Cruise to show he's got the right stuff, my God he's been in front of a camera long enough, and he has a deeper voice and serious disposition, but what Spielberg has done is create a sequel to Max Von Sydow's brilliant Dreamscape film.   This is Dreamscape Part II, and that movie had all the elements for sequel city (and could have done much for the career of one Dennis Quaid had the sequels marched forth). But rather than Tom Cruise dip into people's dreams, he dips into their future thanks to the three psychics, sort of like the Three Wise Men underwater while Cruise is the saviour.   Isn't it telling that George Lucas has failed to give us a real Star Wars in his last two attempts (talk about horrible acting, Yoda and Christopher Lee had a field day outplaying everyone, and Yoda is a computer generated image, shades of The 13th Floor)---and is Spielberg  starting to lose his edge?  It is all about marquee value stars and lots of glitz, but who wants to make a new classic? Signs and Minority Report are great action packed summer films but M. Night Shyamalan in copying Night Of The Living Dead (along with a moment from The Blair Witch Project while they are in the cellar), is not re-writing history, he is forgetting what made his contribution via The Sixth Sense so important to our culture. David Koepp's A Stir Of Echoes ran parallel to Sixth Sense, and then his script for Spiderman removed the dual personality of Peter Parker---an arrogant super hero cracking jokes in his real persona while the mild mannered nerd photographer was his alter ego. Hollywood is re-writing original science fiction and gearing it toward the quick buck. It makes a Batman flick with Arnold Terminator look great on paper and leaves the audience unsatisfied. And for ticket prices pushing the 10-dollar mark, that is hard to swallow.

The report on The Minority Report and Signs is that both Shyamalan and Spielberg need to get some new life into their projects.  ## 

* * *

3. FILM: FULL FRONTAL

Sex, lies and Erin Broke-oh-vitch! Talk about a film that promises much and goes nowhere. This is a tough one to take. It makes Roman Coppola's CQ look like a masterpiece by comparison, and that was a near-dud. The grainy filming is not cool, it is annoying. Julia Roberts' considerable acting talents go to waste, and what could have been a brilliant movie about porn that could've blown away Marky Mark and Burt Reynolds is yet  another parody. Yawn.   They should pay the audience to see these things.  ##

* * *

4. FILM: K-19

Male bonding galore. Why do we need Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson acting like they are portraying Russians? They come off like itís an audition for a high school play. And you know it is a sad story, so when you walk in the theater the sense of dread is already in the air, there's no hope because like The Perfect Storm you already know the ending is going to be a bummer. Would have made a better documentary.  ##

* * *

5. FILM: UNFAITHFUL

This may be the biggest disappointment because it is so good and fails to deliver the knockout punch that Fatal Attraction gave the audience (and Glenn Close who somehow managed to avoid typecasting after her over-the-top performance.

The real chemistry in the film is between Olivier Martinez and Richard Gere. Those two in the room together are on fire, in a way that makes the cheating wife, already a reprehensible creature because she has the perfect family and destroys it on a whim, an annoyance. When Richard Gere is sitting on the lover's bed was the time to turn the tables.

Had Martinez and Gere had their own affair as revenge and the wife-gone-psycho, the film would be a masterpiece. But Hollywood can't go there, can they?   A middle-aged 52-year old Richard Gere looks better today than in his hunky American Gigolo role, and Martinez is the French Gigolo. It is perfect.

Director Adrian Lyne decided to put her obsession with urine all over this flick. The son takes his turn at the toilet, Gere gets to relieve himself, Diane Lane as the wife and Martinez have intercourse in the toilet, Lane puts her foot on the toilet in the lover's apartment, the lover pours the tea into the glass in a most phallic way. It's absolutely revolting. What was the point with dirty water? That something clean like a good marriage was violated? We get that. We don't need it thrown in the face, and the failure to turn the tables on Glenn Close II, and the overuse of negative symbols, holds UNFAITHFUL back from being the masterpiece it could have been.

A little courage in filmmaking would find great reward.  

(Copyright © 2002 Joe Viglione)  ##

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