Films Review October
ARLINGTON ROAD (R)
I saw a tight, thrilling, suspenseful 3-minute movie. Now someone has had the audacity to turn it into a two-hour coming attraction.
The film is called “Arlington Road,” and unless you have been hiding in a cave the last three weeks, you know that it deals with a man who suspects that his neighbors may be more than they represent. The 3-minute movie was the real coming attraction for the film, but like most trailers these days, it was nothing more than a condensed version of the film. I read recently where the filmmaker’s took great care to keep the plot, or at least major plot points, a secret. Too bad they didn’t get to cut the trailer for the film, because the marketing people in all of their wisdom didn’t feel that less was more. They felt that more wasn’t enough, so they layer on one plot point after another until you actually feel like you’ve seen the film. Indeed, there is little that is left to the imagination if you’ve seen the 3-minute trailer. The screenwriter, Ehren Kruger, takes every precaution in the film to keep us guessing. There’s real edge to the characters and situations. Director Mark Pellington does an excellent job of slowly drawing out the plot elements until it’s almost unbearable. That is, if you haven’t seen the trailer. If you’ve seen the trailer (or even the 60-second television spot), then you already know too much. All of the filmmaker’s hard work is lost. What is ambiguous in the film is explained in the preview so that even the densest of viewer knows what is going on. Too bad, because the actors actually bust their butts to create characters who have many shades. For instance, Jeff Bridges plays a man whose suspicions about his neighbors may be just paranoia. (Columbia-TriStar)
BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THE (R)
Here’s something out of the ordinary. A trio of filmmakers investigate a myth with the hopes of turning their footage into a documentary. The trio seek out the cast members of “The Facts of Life,” who had disappeared from the television landscape without a trace. They attempt to find out whether or not star Lisa Whelchel was like the character she played on the series. Even though “The Blair Bitch Project” is a product of my imagination, it definitely would be more interesting than “The Blair Witch Project,” the over-hyped student film that is getting a big push in local theaters. Written, edited and directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, “The Blair Witch Project” is supposedly based on the recovered footage of a trio of documentary filmmakers who disappeared while exploring a Maryland legend. After sitting through 88 minutes of this footage, you wish it would have stayed lost. (Artisan)
BOILING POINT (NR)
BROADWAY DAMAGE (NR)
DARWIN CONSPIRACY, THE (PG)
FROGS FOR SNAKES (NR)
HIDEOUS KINKY (R)
JACK FROST (Rated PG)
Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but not nearly as frightful as “Jack Frost,” possibly the oddest and least comforting holiday family film to come around since David Cronenberg’s “Crash.”
Michael Keaton has gone from “Batman” to “Snowman” in a career that should land him in one of those Old Navy Performance Fleece commercials. Wasn’t he the one fighting over a bone with Magic?
I would love to have been the fly on the wall in the meeting where Keaton got the role.
“So what have you got for me,” Keaton anxiously asks his agent.
“There’s good news and bad news,” says Agent Orange.
“So what’s the good news,” Keaton tosses back.
“Well, we almost had you in a movie-of-the-week. “The Markie Post Story.” They wanted you to play Lee Majors from “The Fall Guy” era.”
“I would be great as Lee Majors,” Keaton assures his agent.
“That’s the bad news. Lee Majors has much more clout than you, so he’s going to play himself.”
“Damn,” shouts Keaton. “That darn Lee Majors curse. Is it going to follow me throughout my career? I’ll show him. Is there anything else?”
“Well, we just got a script for this new family comedy,” mentions Agent Orange. “Perfect,” counters Keaton. I’ve always been good in family films. What’s it called?” “Jack Frost,” utters the agent, knowing what question will follow.
MUPPETS FROM SPACE (G)
How delightful it is to have the Muppets back on the big screen. I absolutely adore them, and have supported each and every one of their theatrical adventures. Having them back is like catching up with old friends you haven’t seen in a while. The emphasis this outing is on cute, adorable Gonzo, who finally learns of his origins. The film opens with a funny bit with Gonzo trying to gain entrance on the Ark when Moses (F. Murray Abraham) breaks the bad news. Since there is only one of him, Gonzo can’t board the Ark. The dream sends Gonzo on a search for his heritage. What Gonzo learns is that his relatives are more out of this world than the rest of his Muppet friends. When word leaks out on Miss Piggy’s television show that Gonzo’s family is coming for a visit, he is abducted by K. Edgar Singer (Jeffrey Tambor), a member of a secret government agency. Singer wants to capture Gonzo and his family to prove that aliens exist. It’s up to the Muppets to come to Gonzo’s rescue and save the day. The plot is thin, but the jokes and visual gags are plentiful. Three writers (Jerry Juhl, Joseph Mazzarino and Ken Kaufman) provide the Muppets with plenty to say and do, while the live actors (including David Arquette, Josh Charles, Hollywood “Hulk” Hogan, Ray Liotta and Andie McDowell) are just along for the ride. Tambor makes an excellent foe, while director Tim Hill keeps everything short and sweet. The Muppet puppeteers and performers (among them Frank Oz, Dave Golez and Steve Whitmire) keep the old magic alive, while the film’s visual and special effects are appropriately cheesy. (Columbia-TriStar)
NEVER BEEN KISSED (PG-13)
Before I begin, I must admit that I believe Drew Barrymore is a national treasure. Her last three films, “The Wedding Singer,” “Ever After” and “Home Fries,” proved that the former child star is as talented as she is adorable. Her latest film, “Never Been Kissed,” proves that star power can overcome any obstacle, including pedestrian plotting. Barrymore is so luminous that she shines throughout this delightful little romantic comedy about a copy editor at the Chicago Sun Times who is picked to do an undercover assignment at a local high school. Even though the script by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein is predictable in it’s plotting, it’s also filled with wonderful observations and witty dialogue that more than make up for it. Kohn and Silverstein have created a fairytale based in reality that proves true love always wins out in the end. (Fox)
TWICE UPON A YESTERDAY (R)
VELOCITY OF GARY, THE (R)
VIOLENT COP (NR)
ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:BORN BAD (R/New Horizons)COMPLETE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES (NR/Paramount)
GIRLS’ NIGHT (NR/Showtime)
HER NAME IS CAT (R/Golden Harvest)
HUMAN CARGO (NR/Showtime)
INSPECTORS, THE (NR/Showtime
PINOCCHIO (G/Walt Disney)
TACTICAL ASSAULT (R/Trimark)