Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Capsule Reviews Volume IV


200 Motels
Directed by Frank Zappa and Tony Palmer, Story and screenplay by Frank Zappa, Cast: Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Theodore Bikel, Frank Zappa
(1971) feature film (*) out of five stars
This bizarre, trippy experience has a few good songs and a couple of laughs. It is also incomprehensible, boring, and silly. The band proves they should stay on the infamous road, and away from the camera, and this is nothing more than a Frank Zappa ego trip. "200 Motels" gets an appropriate 2.


Arena- "Salvador Dali"
Directed by Adam Low, Cast: Salvador Dali
(1986) television episode (* * * *) out of five stars
Salvador Dali fans will like this good biography, but there is nothing earth shattering here that you have not seen in any other biography documentary. This was done before Dali's death, but it is still a shock to see him so frail after leaving a hospital. Well balanced, this also shows Dali's Alka-Seltzer commercial, and questions the possibility that he signed blank sheets of paper just to cash in on his name. I give this a 7.


Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
Directed by Joe Berlinger, Written by Dick Beebe and Joe Berlinger, Cast: Tristine Skyler, Stephen Barker Turner, Erica Leehrsen, Kim Director
(2000) feature film (* *) out of five stars
This entire film is nothing but a series of half-baked ideas tossed together quick to make a sequel and a handful of money. The characters act idiotically. All these weird things happen to them, yet they never mention it to the others. And how many strangers do you know who pay tons of money to go in the woods to research a book, then just lay around, smoke dope and drink? I give this a 3 for a good beginning, but that is it. Also, ignore the "esrever" thing at the end of the videotape edition, it is DUMB.


The Cell
Directed by Tarsem Singh, Written by Mark Protosevich, Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, James Gammon
(2000) feature film (* * * * *) out of five stars
This film is brilliant in that it takes an old story, the one about the FBI tracking down a serial killer, and completely turns it on its head, giving viewers scenes they could never dream up, much less watch on video. This is great, and I cannot wait to see what the director does next. I give this a 10.


Crocodile
Directed by Tobe Hooper, Screenplay by Jace Anderson, Adam Gierasch, Michael D. Weiss, Story by Boaz Davidson, Cast: Mark McLachlan, Caitlin Martin, Chris Solari, D.W. Reiser
(2000) feature film (*) out of five stars
This is one bad film. Bad acting, bad writing, bad direction, and bad special effects. I thanked God the characters starting getting eaten, they wear on your nerves almost immediately. If this is the best Tobe Hooper can do, I weep for the future of horror. I give this a much deserved 1.


Dont Look Back
Written and directed by D.A. Pennebaker, Cast: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Donovan, Allen Ginsberg
(1967) feature film (* * *) out of five stars
While some find this documentary brilliant, I thought this was rather pedestrian. Lots of backstage and hotel room footage of Bob Dylan's yes men and friends laughing at everything he says, while his music is severely lacking. Joan Baez comes off as a giggly hack, and most of the time the entertainment reporters show that shallowness is not an exclusively American trait. I give this a 6.


Jewel
Directed by Paul Shapiro, Teleplay by Susan Cooper based on the novel by Bret Lott, Cast: Farrah Fawcett, Patrick Bergin, Cicely Tyson, Ashley Wolfe
(2001) television movie (* *) out of five stars
This made for TV movie plays it way too safe despite good tries by Farrah Fawcett and Patrick Bergin. The story of a woman and her Down syndrome child should have been moving, but there are no surprises, and the whole two hours dwindle away to a conclusion that will make you wonder what the point was in the first place. Ill-conceived soap operatics involving Jewel's other children are boring, and does anyone notice Fawcett does not age in the entire sixteen years the film takes place? A disappointment in its pedestrian execution. I give this a 3.


Manhunter
Directed by Michael Mann, Screenplay by Michael Mann based on the novel by Thomas Harris, Cast: William Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox
(1986) feature film (* * *) out of five stars
This chiller is well made, shadowing William Petersen's work in CSI as he tracks down a family killing murderer. Hannibal Lector has a secondary role, but the real flaw here is the complete shifting of gears half way through as we see the killer and his new love relationship. This goes on too long, kills suspense, and leads to a cliched conclusion. I give this a 6.


Mystery Men
Directed by Kinka Usher, Written by Neil Cuthbert, Cast: Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Janeane Garofalo, William H. Macy
(1999) feature film (* *) out of five stars
Take another look at that cast. This should have been the funniest laugh out loud film of the year. I do not know how, but even Janeane Garofalo could not save this. The film did a great job of lampooning the Batman entries directed by Joel Schumacher, but someone forgot to tell the scriptwriters that this was a comedy. I give this a 4, a point for each time I laughed, and the nice effects.


Pitch Black
Directed by David Twohy, Screenplay by Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat and David Twohy, Story by Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat, Cast: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David
(2000) feature film (* * * * *) out of five stars
Very scary sci-fi will hook you more for the special effects than anything else. I have never seen exterior scenes like this, and never assumed they were just in some other desert somewhere. The cast is great, especially Vin Diesel, and David Twohy ought to get to direct the next "Alien" or "The X-Files" film. I give this a 9.


Psycho
Directed by Gus Van Sant, Screenplay by Joseph Stefano based on the novel by Robert Bloch, Cast: Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen
(1998) feature film (* * *) out of five stars
This is not a bad film, on its own I give it a 6. But why remake the classic, using the exact script and direction?? There is really no point to the whole thing. The cast is good, except Vince Vaughn cannot decide whether to play Norman Bates as a suave killer or an ignorant rube. He did a better job in "The Cell." This flopped, so we won't have to see a remake of "Citizen Kane" starring Adam Sandler and directed by Spike Lee. Thank Heavens.


Steal This Movie
Directed by Robert Greenwald, Screenplay by Bruce Graham based on books by Abbie Hoffman, Anita Hoffman, and Marty Jezer, Cast: Vincent D'Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Kevin Pollak
(2000) feature film (* * *) out of five stars
The film makers were obviously trying to hit on all of the important events in Abbie Hoffman's life, so they showed scenes that were way too short or did not go far enough to explain such an enigmatic figure. In the end, the viewer is left with no new knowledge of Hoffman. I give this a 5 just because of some earnest performances and a great soundtrack.


Tales of Ordinary Madness
Directed by Marco Ferreri, Scenario by Marco Ferreri and Sergio Amidei based on a book by Charles Bukowski, Cast: Ben Gazzara, Ornella Muti, Susan Tyrrell, Tanya Lopert
(1983) feature film (* * * *) out of five stars
This film is much better than other reviewers are letting on. While graphic, it does manage to tell a story, and this is more entertaining than the lethargic "Barfly." Ben Gazzara is great, the direction is unflinching, and the film makers manage to work in a little poetry as well. I give this a 7.