Reviews

Tomcats


Directed by: Gregory Poirier
Written by:Gregory Poirier
Starring: Shannon Elizabeth, Jerry O’Connell, Jake Busey, Horatio Sanz, Jaime Pressly
Released: April 19, 2001
Grade: C+

We’ve seen nothing but cleavage and scantly clothed women in the TV ads and one would expect all to be revealed in the movie itself but not so.  Despite having more sexual references than any film I’ve seen, there isn’t a single shred of nudity or sex in Tomcats which may disappoint the audience at which it is targeted.  It’s like taking a guy to a strip club and then finding no strippers inside.

Aside, the film stinks anyway.  It’s the story of seven guys who make a “tomcats” bet.  They all put a couple of hundred dollars a year into an investment fund and the last man to get married gets the whole pot.  Five are married in the space of seven years which just leaves two - Michael (O’Connell) and Kyle (Busey) to fight for the kitty which has now reached $500,000.  When Michael goes on a casino gambling spree (trying to impress a young lady), he finds himself $51,000 in debt and 30 days to find the money or else...

If you haven’t already predicted it, the only way Michael can come up with the money is to get Kyle married but that’s going to be a task in itself.  Kyle’s goal in life is to sleep with every single woman on the planet.  He constantly uses women and then dumps them when he’s finished with their services.  The only true love he ever had was a girl he met at a wedding known as Natalie (Elizabeth).  Michael knows he has to track down Natalie and get her to woo Kyle to the altar.

To show just how pitiful this film is, let me give you an example of one scene.  Kyle has cancer of the testicle and has it removed in an operation by his doctor.  Not wanting to leave a part of him behind, he asks Michael to search the hospital and steal the jar that contains his removed testicle.  Michael finds it but drops the jar leaving the swollen testicle on the ground.  It a barrage of coincidences, the testicle is kicked around the hospital until it finds itself in the cafeteria on a tray of sticky buns.  The buns are spilt and the testicle is now on the lunch tray of the doctor who promptly takes a juicy bite.  Classy.

Not my kind of film and judging from the trailers before it, more sick garbage is on the way.  Previews for David Spade’s Joe Dirt and Tom Green’s Freddie Got Fingered show that just when you think we’ve sunk to a new low, we somehow find a way to sink even lower.  Gross out comedies are over produced and when people of the future look back, they’ll wonder how such trash came to be made.  It must be kind of like us looking back on the late 80s and cringing at titles such as Revenge Of The Nerds 4: Nerds In Love and Police Academy 6: City Under Siege.  At least things aren’t that bad yet, are they?

    

Best In Show


Directed by: Christopher Guest
Written by:Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy
Starring: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, John Michael Higgins
Released: April 12, 2001
Grade: B+

It made its world premiere at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and has been honoured with praise since.  A fictitious documentary, Best In Show is the story of five different dog owners as they prepare their prized pooches and head to Philadelphia for the prestigious 125th Annual Mayflower Dog Show.

All these contestants are different.  Some do it for love, some do it for fame, some do it for money, and some do it for a combination of all three.  I remember laughing heartedly during the film and it brought back memories of Rob Sitch’s The Castle and The Dish.  We have a good chuckle at how simple and idiotic these characters are but we feel and care for them at the same time.

There’s not a lot of story in Best In Show and it’s left to the characters to make the movie.  They are all riotously funny but I have to single out Fred Willard who plays a commentator at the big show.  He knows nothing about dogs and bluffs his way through the broadcast by talking nothing but crap.  Who knew commentating a dog show could be so much fun?

Director and screenwriter Christopher Guest is a leader in the independent film world.  In his career to date, Guest has directed films such as Waiting For Guffman, written and composed for films such as This Is Spinal Tap, and provided small acting roles in a string of films including A Few Good Men and The Princess Bride.  Not only that, he’s featured as a regular comedy writer for America’s Saturday Night Live.  Assisting Guest in the screenwriting department is the equally talented and fellow co-star Eugene Levy who many will know as Jim’s dad in American Pie.

If you haven’t heard of Best In Show prior to this, you’re not alone.  With TV ads flogging everything from Say It Isn’t So to Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles, a smaller release will undoubtedly be swamped by the competition.  As a nominee for best comedy at the Golden Globes, best director at the Independent Spirit Awards and best screenplay at the Writers Guild, Best In Show doesn’t deserve to be overlooked.  If you’re looking for comedy that doesn’t have jokes about cats giving blowjobs and guys wrestling crocodiles, this could be the perfect Easter movie for you.

    

Memento


Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by:Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior
Released: April 12, 2001
Grade: A

This may sound strange but there is nothing I can tell you about Memento without giving away the many surprises it contains.  All I will say is that it is the story of Leonard Shelby (Pearce), a man with a rare medical condition - he has short term memory loss.  Since the “incident”, he has been unable to remember anything for longer than two minutes and goes through life taking pictures and writing notes so that he can remember who he meets and what he does.

That’s all I’ll reveal.  I’d heard so little about the film and had never seen a trailer.  The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last September and followed that up with a screening in Toronto.  It’s had a very limited release in the States and similarly in Australia, it’s screening on only a few selected screens.

I’m not sure why this is so because the film is brilliant and rivals the shocking twists and turns of The Sixth Sense.  The style is unique and you’ll know what I mean within seconds of the opening credits.  Never before has a thriller left me thinking throughout the entire film and just like Leonard, we too will be wondering about his past.  I thought I’d figured the mystery out after 34 minutes (I looked at my watch) but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It will leave you thinking many hours after you see it.

That is not to say the screenplay is flawless.  How can he remember he has a memory problem in the first place?  How does he remember where he’s going when he’s driving?  How does he remember to look in his pockets for photographs that help him remember?  The more you think about it, the more inconsistencies you’ll come across and unfortunately it stops the film from achieving “masterpiece” quality.  The concept, whilst fascinating, is just too difficult to make the story truly believable.

30-year-old Christopher Nolan is both writer and director and his first “big time” production will guarantee him a certain future.  He’s already signed with Warner Bros. to direct a thriller starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank which has George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh as executive producers.  That says something and shows I’m not alone in praising Nolan’s talent.

Memento is a simple story.  When you break it down, there are just a handful of characters at a handful of locations.  But like a good joke, it’s how you tell it that’s important.  Just wait till you see how this story is told.

“Don’t believe his lies.”

    

Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles


Directed by: Simon Wincer
Written by:Matthew Berry, Eric Abrams
Starring: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Jere Burns, Jonathan Banks
Released: April 12, 2001
Grade: C-

Someone had to be desperate to come up with this.  Crocodile Dundee 2 was released back in 1988 (following the release of the original in 1986) and both were smash hits at both home and abroad (each topping $100m in the States).  Times have changed though and why Universal Pictures would revive this series is beyond me.

The script is pitiful and I will name both Matthew Berry and Eric Abrams as those responsible (along with Paul Hogan) in the hope they will never work in Hollywood again.  In this “adventure”, Mick Dundee (Hogan) and his long time companion Sue Charlton (Kozlowski) now own a pub in the Northern Territory outback.  Sue gets a call from her father asking her to come to Los Angeles for a few weeks.  It seems an employee at his publishing company has died and he needs Sue to fill in while he looks for a permanent replacement.

So off they head to L.A. with their son Mike (played by George Negus’s 9-year-old son Serge Cockburn).  Once there, Sue quickly picks up the pieces and uncovers a big story (believe it or not).  A string of really bad movies are being made by a new studio company.  The first film flopped, the sequel went straight to video and somehow a third movie is in the works.  Curious as to how the studio can remain open, Sue investigates, uncovers a conspiracy and with Mick going undercover as an extra in the film, she’ll soon find out the truth behind the mystery.

With every film like this I see, I develop an even bigger appreciation for the Austin Powers films.  I don’t know why film studios pursue with over the top supervillans given that Dr. Evil has taken the mickey out of all those that have gone before.  Somehow, these ludicrous storylines continue to haunt us as seen here and in the recent Miss Congeniality.

I am not taking this film too seriously.  Anyone who says “oh, it’s just a bit of fun” deserves a slap across the face and a good hosing down.  When someone makes a bad joke, you don’t laugh just because you’re supposed to.  I never laughed once and there were stages in the first half hour where I was tempted to just get up and walk out (for those that have seen the film, a scene in a spa bath caps off what I’m talking about).  The acting was dreadful and the jokes so lame.  Spontaneity has no meaning.

Don’t even get me started on the culture issue.  Australians do not walk around in akubras all day.  Australians do not wrestle crocodiles for a living.  Australians do not serve nothing but beer in pubs.  Australians are not idiots who cannot understand anything about America.  Do we feel satisfied portraying such an image to the world?  Maybe ten years ago but aren’t we better than that now.

If you need supporting evidence, check out the documentary, Cunnamulla, which screened recently in Brisbane.  Could you imagine how shocked Americans would be to find out what really goes on the outback.  Desolate towns filled with doll bludgers, deadbeats, criminals and 13-year-olds having sex.  That is our true culture, whether we like it or not.

That is all I have to say.  I am sorry to have wasted your time in having to read this but it serves a purpose - to make sure you don’t see Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles.  I rest my case.

    

Say It Isn't So


Directed by: James B. Rogers
Written by:Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow
Starring: Heather Graham, Chris Klein, Orlando Jones, Sally Field, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Cibrian
Released: April 12, 2001
Grade: C

Perhaps toilet humour has reached the bottom of the bowl and it’s time for a good flush.  The last six yeas have seen the release of Dumb And Dumber, Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, Outside Providence and Me, Myself and Irene.  The Farrelly brothers (Peter and Bobby) have played a part in all the above films (either as director, producer or writer) and one could say they have defined the genre.  Say It Isn’t So goes to show they may have also killed the genre.

In this story, the sweet and innocent Gilly Noble (Klein) is just looking for that perfect girl who’ll give him goosebumps all over.  At the local hairdresser, he meets Jo Wingfield (Graham) and they are a perfect match.  That is until Jo accidentally chops off Gilly’s ear when giving him a haircut.  Oh well, all is forgiven and six months pass before they take the big plunge and consummate their relationship.

Things go askew when a friend of Gilly believes he’s finally tracked down his natural birth mother and her name is Valdine Wingfield (Field), Jo’s mother.  Given that she’s just “poked” her own brother, Jo flees to Oregon to be with her wealthy ex-boyfriend Mark (Cibrian).

Time passes and out of the blue, a mysterious gentleman arrives on the Wingfield’s doorstep who has validation that he is the Wingfield’s lost son.  Now that the horrible misunderstanding has been cleared up, Gilly tries to track down Jo to tell her the good news but just about everyone is standing in his way...

This is cheap, tiresome crap that isn’t close to being funny.  There’s a great scene at the start with the family around the dinner table but that was the lone moment bringing a smile to my face.  Other “jokes” include Gilly mistakenly getting a blow-job from a cat and Gilly getting his arm stuck in the ass of a cow.

Say It Isn’t So is lacklustre and like a broken coke machine, takes your money and gives nothing in return.

    

The Gift


Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by:Billy Bob Thornton, Tom Epperson
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Gary Cole, Michael Jeter
Released: April 12, 2001
Grade: B

Police have been left no clues regarding the disappearance of Jessica King (Holmes), daughter of wealthy business man Kenneth King, who has now been missing for four days.  Her husband-to-be is local school principal Wayne Collins (Kinnear).  In desperation he has turned to the help of a psychic looking for any sniff of information to help track her whereabouts.

Annie Wilson (Blanchett) is such a person.  Her husband died over a year ago and she’s been left struggling to raise her three sons since.  Social security isn’t sufficient for her family to survive on and so she tells peoples fortunes using special cards to provide additional income.  Annie has little standing in the community with most believing her to be a hoax.

So when Annie unearths Jessica’s body in the lake of local womaniser Donnie Barksdale (Reeves) accusations start flying.  How did Annie know the body was there?  Did she have it in for Donnie as she knew he was beating his wife Valerie (Swank)?  How can you convict someone of the crime if the only witness wasn’t even there?

Everyone’s a suspect and the screenplay is designed to give you that impression.  All have a motive and it’s why the film is unsatisfying.  Once the killer was revealed, I felt cheated and disenchanted.  It’s a shame since The Gift was thrilling to watch in the lead up.

A captivatingly dark film, director Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan, The Quick And The Dead) isn’t helped by his cast.  Cate Blanchett stands out and proves she is the world’s best actress at the moment.  Having been robbed by Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars two years ago for her performance in Elizabeth, Blanchett has showed her range in Pushing Tin, The Talented Mr. Ripley and An Ideal Husband.  However, the remaining cast members are typecast play uncreative standardised roles.  Keanu Reeves is the bad guy, Greg Kinnear is the good guy and Giovanni Ribisi is the strange guy.

Katie Holmes shows intelligence for not succumbing to the fate of other young TV stars and starring in teen romantic comedies.  She will probably be remember most for bearing her breasts in this film but given her performance both here and in last year’s Wonder Boys add to the impressive resume of a 22-year-old.  Let’s just forget Teaching Mrs. Tingle ever happened.

Credit for the spine tingling score goes to Christopher Young (Rounders, Copycat) for it.  Few understand that to add to the suspense of a good thriller, you need to have the music peak and trough at just the right times.  Psycho or Jaws are famous examples.  Ever so subtly, Young increases the tension already generated by Raimi which makes it’s hard to look away.

The Gift is a spooky mix of reality and the supernatural.  The possibility existed for a uniquely spellbinding view but does degenerate by following Hollywood conventions and formulas.  It could have been and should have been much better.