Directed by: Mike Figgis
Written by:Mike Figgis
Starring: Saffron Burrows, Salma Hayek, Glenne Headly, Holly Hunter, Kyle MacLachlan, Leslie Mann, Julian Sands, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeanne Tripplehorn
Released: September 14, 2000
Grade: A-

Mike Figgis is a director renowned for new cinematic techniques evidenced by Timecode.  This film is revolutionary for three reasons - it is shot entirely with digital cameras, it is shot in real time with no editing whatsoever, and it is shot with four cameras that appear on screen simultaneously.

With four screens in action, it’s hard to keep up with everything going on but here’s my interpretation of events as the story begins.  Lauren (Tripplehorn) and Rose (Hayek) are lovers with Lauren giving Rose a lift to an audition for a new movie.  Emma (Burrows) is at her therapist (Headey) discussing her relationship problems.  In a boardroom, a meeting is to about to take place but the boss, Alex (Skarsgard) is late and is suspected of drinking again.  Finally, we meet a security guard at the front entrance of an office complex who doesn’t seem to be doing much at all.

I won’t reveal any more because this film does call upon your intelligence to keep track of all the cameras, all the characters and all the interaction.  The sound fluctuates from camera to camera depending on which has the more important action but if you listen closely, you can follow any particular camera you desire.  It’s not as difficult to watch as you might think.

The utmost praise has to go to Mike Figgis for pulling this off.  He controls one camera and Tony Cucchiari, James Wharton O’Keefe and Patrick Alexander Stewart control the other three.  Just think of the logistics of the whole creation.  All four cameramen have to make sure that none run into each other and appear on screen.  They also are on the run for the full 90 minutes without any break whatsoever.  All the actors have to be aware which camera they’re talking to and know all their actions and lines for the full duration.  Jeanne Tripplehorn has to be singled out for her dazzling performance that is emphasised by the fact she appears on screen for the entire movie.  It’s not easy and yet everything flows so well that you don’t notice the lack of editing.

Figgis has publicly stated that this film is designed for DVD usage.  When released early in 2001, you’ll be able to watch the whole movie from one camera if you like.  If watching all four, you’ll have the option of turning up the volume on whichever camera you choose.  It’s very overwhelming but it shows just what can be done in today’s world.  Technology has arrived and it’s time to move forward...


Big Momma's House

Directed by: Raja Gosnell
Written by:Darryl Quarles, Don Rhymer
Starring: Martin Lawrence, Nia Long, Paul Giamatti, Jascha Washington
Released: September 7, 2000
Grade: C

Malcolm (Lawrence) and John (Giamatti) are FBI agents on a routine case.  Lester, a criminal convicted of robbery has just been released from jail and the word on the street is that he’s after former-flame, Sherry (Long), and her son who are rumoured to hold the $2m that was never recovered.

Malcolm and John have been asked to keep an eye on Sherry’s grandmother’s house in the hope of obtaining information as to the whereabouts of the money.  However, when “Big Momma” goes on a sudden vacation and Sherry is soon approaching to stay at Big Momma’s House, there is only one solution - Malcolm impersonates Big Momma.

This film takes ludicrous to a new level.  I’ve seen 30-second skits on Late Night With Conan O’Brien that have more substance this 98-minute endurance test.  I can just imagine what was going through the minds of the screenwriters - “You know what would be funny - Martin Lawrence dressing up as a woman - let’s just come up with some zany story around it and the studios will love it.”  I don’t know what’s more shocking - that someone wrote this or that someone approved it.

Martin Lawrence with make up looks nothing like the real Big Momma which again makes me wonder how nobody notices.  Lawrence’s delivers a baby with no experience - how?  The real Big Momma just jets off without telling anyone - why?  It’s all too hard to believe that this sequence of coincidences could be pulled off.

The biggest failure with Big Momma’s House is its over-sentimentality.  Despite the whole craziness of the movie, they try to create some touching “Kodak moments” that are noticeably out of place.  If you’re going to play it silly then you may as well keep going.  The final scene between Malcolm and Sherry in the Church had me close to knocking myself out.

I will not waste additional time describing my extreme dislike for this garbage.  I had the luxury of seeing this film at the Chermside cinemas with the new luxury seating.  The seating sure was great but unfortunately my seat was facing the screen rather than the exit.


Scary Movie

Directed by: Keenen Ivory Wayans
Written by:Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Regina Hall, Lochlyn Munro, Jon Abrahams, Marlon Wayans, Carmen Electra, Shawn Wayans
Released: August 31, 2000
Grade: B

Ever since Flying High, spoofs have been a successful part of cinema culture. They're not difficult to make - you find famous moments from a group of well-known, smash-hit films and take the piss out of them.  I've bagged plenty of teen horror films of late - I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Disturbing Behaviour, Urban Legend and despite being not yet released I think I will include Urban Legend 2.  The time has come for someone to take these films to the cleaners.

Comedian Keenan Ivory Wayans is that someone.  Scary Movie takes a "stab" at every film from Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer to The Usual Suspects and The Matrix. There’s no need to go into further detail because spoofs aren't about plots and storylines - if you've seen the above films, you'll understand all the jokes and have a jolly good laugh at their expense.

For once, overplaying of roles is required, which explains why I enjoyed the characters so much. Special mention has to go to newcomer Anna Faris who plays the lead (some sort of Katie Homes/Jennifer Love Hewitt mix).  She has to play it straight when everyone around her is completely nuts and is the best character of the film.

Bottom line, when it comes to review a film like this, all that is important is the comedic factor and whether the jokes hit the mark?  There were plenty of hilarious scenes (most of which you see in the trailer) but for each one there seemed to be an equal number of jokes that didn't work.  For example, there was a lengthy scene taking-off I Know What You Did Last Summer that was too long with little laughter.  I would have preferred to see the film use a few more original ideas than mimicking these films so closely.

Regardless, Scary Movie is worth seeing from an entertainment perspective.  It's short, funny and contains plenty of really disgusting scenes.  We're due for a new spoof and this film fills the gap nicely.  The funniest scene came near the end when a cinema patron at Shakespeare In Love broke all the taboos - she talked, ate loudly and had her mobile phone ring during the movie.  Just when the masked killer was about to slay her, the other moviegoers did it for him.  If only...

On an interesting side note, the tagline for Scary Movie reads “No Mercy.  No Shame.  No Sequel.”  Believe it or not, given the film’s worldwide success a sequel is in the works.  How ironic it is that a film bagging others for releasing sequels succumbs to the same fate.  I guess it goes to show that in Hollywood, there’s only one thing that’s truly important - money.


Snow Day

Directed by: Chris Koch
Written by:Will McRobb,Chris Viscardi
Starring: Chris Elliott, Mark Webber, Iggy Pop, Pam Grier, Chevy Chase, John Schneider
Released: September 7, 2000
Grade: B-

Snow Day is the third film is be created by Nickelodeon Pictures following Harriet The Spy (1996) and Good Burger (1997).  When you see a Nickelodeon film you know what to expect - a G-rated family comedy and Snow Day fits the mould.

Hal Brandston (Webber) is a school kid with only one thing on his mind - Claire Bonner.  He’s been dying to ask her out but just can’t conjure up the courage to do so.  For Hal’s sister, Natalie, the winter has not gone so well.  Spring has almost approached and still no snow.  Every year she yearns for a “snow day” - that rarest of days that closes all schools.  Snow days have a reputation as a special day in which anything can happen.

Sure enough, the snow day arrives and the story begins.  Hal thinks it’s time to take a chance with Claire and Natalie sets out to stop the ploughman (Elliot) and help create a second snow day.

It’s all sweet with sugar on top.  Chevy Chase and Pam Grier pop up in small cameo-like roles and I was surprised that neither was given any good lines nor screen time.  The kids seem to take all the jokes but admittedly it is designed for a younger audience.

It’s hard to relate to a film like this in Brisbane given our climate but if you’re looking to offload the kids this school holidays, Snow Day could just be the ticket.


Where The Heart Is

Directed by: Matt Williams
Written by:Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
Starring: Natalie Portman, James Frain, Stockard Channing, Laura House, Ashley Judd
Released: August 31, 2000
Grade: C+

Natalie Portman is Novalee Nation - a pregnant 17-year-old trying to make things work with her boyfriend, Jack.  The two are travelling across America to California to start a life together.  Pulling over at a Wal-Mart store in Oklahoma for a pair of new shoes, Jack drives off leaving Novalee stranded with no home, money or prospects.

Novalee hides out each night in the Wal-Mart as she tries to figure out what to do next.  Her question is answered when the baby decides its time to arrive and with the help of curious librarian named Forney (James Frain), she gives birth inside the store creating a whirlwind of media attention.

In hospital she develops a friendship with a Lexie (Ashley Judd), a nurse with four children of her own.  She also meets Thelma (Stockard Channing), an elderly religious woman who offers Novalee and her child a place to stay.  The story chronicles the next five years of Novalee’s life.

This film had more ups and downs than any film this year.  There were so many moments I really enjoyed which impressed me with the detail of the storyline and the quality of the actors.  Yet, there we other moments so filled with clichés I wondered whether the same screenwriter was responsible.  My greatest irritation was Novalee’s obsession with the number 5 and how it represented misfortune - it seemed totally out of character given her personality.

Based on the novel by Billie Letts, Where The Heart Is has all the ingredients of an American soap opera condensed into two hours.  Light-hearted and joyful one minute, emotional and tear-jerking the next.  Director Matt Williams tries to integrate a second storyline into the film - the fate of her boyfriend Jack.  Whilst a good idea, Williams doesn’t give it the attention or significance it deserved and the whole subplot becomes an unwarranted distraction.

With many great performances, Where The Heart Is is more Hallmark than Hollywood.  The finest example of a “chick flick” one is likely to see.



Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Written by:Gavin O’Connor, Angela Shelton
Starring: Janet McTeer, Jay O. Sanders, Kimberly Brown, Gavin O’Connor, Laurel Holloman
Released: September 7, 2000
Grade: A-

Mary Jo Walker (McTeer) is an effervescent mother with a 12-year old daughter, Ava (Shelton) - named after Hollywood legend Ava Gardner.  Mary’s been through four marriages and when things go bad, both her and Ava pack up there bags and travel somewhere else to create new start.

On Ava’s suggestion, they head off to San Diego, California to see the beach and find new opportunities.  Ava enrols in a local school and starts making friends from day one.  Mary makes her own friends when she finds a filing job to help pay the “bills that keep coming in”.  Things look even rosier when Mary meets and falls for Jack (O’Connor) and the three move in together.  However, given her past run of separations, is this romance going to be any different?

Delightfully told, Tumbleweeds will guarantee futures for most of its participants.  Gavin O’Connor has left his options open.  He co-wrote the screenplay, took on a major supporting role and was the film’s director - a lot of work!

From an acting perspective, Kimberly Brown has exploded onto the Hollywood scene with her portrayal as Ava.  Her Southern accent, mixed with classic facial expressions, gives her character an edge that makes her perfect opposite McTeer.  As for McTeer, what can be said?  Where has she come from?  Predominantly appearing in English films, Tumbleweeds earned her a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award nomination and several other film critics’ awards along the way.

Playing Mary, McTeer is more than just a zany mother - her exuberant exterior hides a troubled interior that is evident from the outset.  You always have a feeling where the film is going (especially after the introduction of workmate Dan) but there’s an instinct that tells you it may not all be so predictable and that’s a tribute to the acting abilities of the cast.

Mother-daughter bonding movies are becoming a common occurrence on film screens.  Anywhere But Here with Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman bears a striking resemblance to Tumbleweeds.  In the wash up, Tumbleweeds gets the nod from me for in essence, the richness of it characters.