Summer Split Decisions
By Kristin Battestella
Some films you love without a doubt after numerous viewings. Other shows you can’t get past the first fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, what’s a viewer to do when torn between a movie’s good and ills? Here are a few films both young and old on which I simply can’t decide!
The Bone Collector – Only Denzel Washington (Glory, Training Day) could deliver so fine a performance from a hospital bed. The wonderful supporting cast- including Ed O’Neill (Married with Children), Queen Latifah (Chicago), and Luis Guzman (Carlito’s Way) - is great. The spooky and grisly crimes from Jeffery Deaver’s source novel are intense. Director Philip Noyce’s (Patriot Games) claustrophobic and dark camera angles juxtapose perfectly with the neat, upscale, and high tech remote technology. Now then, I like Angelina Jolie (Girl Interrupted, Tomb Raider) I really do, especially in some of her earlier work such as this- but I don’t like her here. She does well as a protégé cop with something to prove, but it’s as if Angie and Denzel are in too different movies. Both have talent indeed, and they might even have chemistry should they work together again, but the pair is just too flat here. You have to watch this one twice-once for the Denzel angle, and once for the Jolie feel.
Highlander: Endgame – It’s the stuff of a Highlander fan’s dream: Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod in one movie! Despite the alternate establishments in the 92-98 television series, 2000’s Endgame has a decent enough storyline and plot to keep things plausible-unlike the useless 2007 sequel Highlander: The Source. Bruce Payne (Passenger 57) and his villains are cool enough, main chick Lisa Barbusica (Bridget Jones’ Diary) is likeable, and of course, our immortals Christopher Lambert (Mortal Kombat) and Adrian Paul (Tracker) are wonderful. However, something just isn’t right with Endgame. I want to like it, honestly I do; but some of the more complex, multipart storylines of the series are better. It also seems like no matter how hard they try- especially with alternate versions and special DVD cuts- all these movie sequels just aren’t as good as the original. Completists will eat this one up, but casual fans are better off with the 1986 debut film or the series. As it turns out, Connor and Duncan together is too good to be true. After all, ‘There can be only one!’
The Legend of Hell House – Many consider this 1973 haunt fest a serious horror classic. No doubt about it, the scares, kinky innuendo, terrifying house, psycho psychics, and ghostly dynamics are all here in fine form. The filming and music is of its time yet still creepily shocking and askew today-maybe more so thanks to the now period looking styles. Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes), Pamela Franklin (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Clive Revill (Avanti!), and Gayle Hunnicutt (
) are gothic perfection, too. Unfortunately, the weak, too tame and simply dumb ending here undoes all of author Richard Matheson’s legwork- it just isn’t as juicy as his source novel. Of course, if made today, there would be so much sex, gore, twists, turns, and herky jerky bad camera work that no concept or story would make it in the film. I know, I know, beggars can’t be choosers. Dallas
Public Enemies (2009) – I love Depression era music, movies, and styles; and once upon a time, I really liked Christian Bale. Ergo then, one would assume I’d be in heaven with this gangster flick starring Bale (The Dark Knight) as FBI man Melvin Purvis and Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) as bad boy John Dillinger. Unfortunately, I didn’t even make it to the end here. Halfway thru, I stopped caring if the 45-year-old Depp as 31-year-old Dillinger was misunderstood, and Bale was more boring than badass. The costumes looked great, and the
scenery was wonderful, but there wasn’t enough period tunes to really set the mood. Too many liberties are taken, and Channing Tatum (G. I. Joe: Rise of Cobra) as Pretty Boy Floyd is only in Public Enemies for five minutes tops-what the big deal with him anyway? I do, however, wish there had been more of David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) as Harry Pierpont. The fine ensemble cast is lost amid the obviousness of Depp and Bale. Pity. Now, it may be old, low budget, and not have nearly as many stars playing cops and robbers; but I actually prefer the 1996 Public Enemies with Theresa Russell as Ma Barker to this flashy caper. Okay so Dan Cortese (Veronica’s Closet) is Melvin Purvis in that one. Bale doesn’t really step it up, here, though, does he? What’s next, Russell Crowe as Al Capone? Chicago
The Screaming Skull – I wanted to like this 1958 creeper, but the only risqué things here are some bullet bras and flimsy nightgowns. There is an audience for this type of hokey old scare, but this one could have been a lot more serious or scary than the final result. Instead, we resort to Rebecca imitations and the usual, cliché horror staples with lots of screaming and obvious double twists. The music is also way too absurd and banshee-like, more like the stylings of a Halloween CD than a score. Maybe I was just expecting too much? I’m not surprised Mystery Science Theater 3000 had its hands on this one.
The Silver Chalice – Paul Newman is one of my favorite classic leading men. I simply adore his staples The Hustler and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as well as some of his smaller pictures like The Young Philadelphians, The Long Hot Summer, and my favorite Hud. However, one might not know of the longstanding Newman clout that is to come by taking in his debut here. The semi-biblical production values are similar to other epics of the day, but director Victor Saville (I was a Spy) went for some sort of abstract or stage like designs that just look too SCA or half dressed theatre rehearsal to be a big movie. The story, delivery, and dialogue also come across as slow and a little too hokey- especially in dealing with the apocryphal magician Simon Magus. The wonderful Jack Palance (Shane, City Slickers) has nothing but ham to do here. I’m also not a big fan of Virginia Mayo (Captain Horatio Hornblower), having yet to been impressed with her in every show in which I’ve seen her. Still, I suppose ladies who love the young and pretty Newman can fast forward through the faulty here-even if the man himself disowned this one!
Twists of Terror – I stumbled upon this 1996 anthology film on cable several times and still can’t decide if I like it or not. Some of the vignettes are well written, paced and developed fine, and have solid acting from Jennifer Rubin (The Crush) and Nick Mancuso (Mob Stories). However, the twists come a little too early or are fairly predictable, and the paranoid scenario of crazy host Joseph Ziegler (
) introducing us to each tale is just stupid. For being a saucy cable film, I’d also expect more than the generic sex and gore-but then again, some of the ‘what you don’t see’ is done a-okay. Am I torn or is this one that bipolar? Black Harbour
When in Rome (2010) – Despite a very likeable cast- including Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family), and Danny DeVito (Taxi)- I simply found nothing funny in the 2010 romantic European comedy. Okay, there was one scene when the itty bitty car fit inside an elevator. That was it! I wanted to like the titular Italian charms, but the premise just falls too flat, leaving the cast with nothing much to do. It almost feels as if director Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil) and writers David Diamond and David Weissman (The Family Man) are knocking off this overdone Judd Apatow wave- but this one is gonna be for chicks! Supposedly the leading man, Josh Duhamel (
) also seems like just another dude in the frat crop. Sigh. Las Vegas
Actually, it seems my distaste for a few of these is more evident than I thought!