Reviews

Supernova


Directed by: Thomas Lee (aka Walter Hill)
Written by:William Malone, Daniel Chuba
Starring: James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Lou Diamond Phillips, Peter Facinelli, Robin Tunney, Wilson Cruz
Released: September 21, 2000
Grade: C+

The most honest way of judging a film is to disregard any previous news or reviews of the film in question.  With Supernova, this is a very difficult proposition.  The film was in trouble from when production began.   Director Walter Hill left the film during post-production and asked his name to be removed from the credits.  Thus, the pseudonym Thomas Lee appears as the director’s name in the film’s closing credits.  Incidentally, Francis Ford Coppola, who didn't want the credit either, finished the film.

The film opened to very poor reviews is the United States and the public were in agreement.  A check of the Internet Movie Database reveals over 800 people have cast a vote on the film with the average score being 3.9 out of 10.  Rumoured to cost $60m, the film made a total U.S. gross of $14.2m creating a massive write-off for the struggling MGM Studios.

So with all this negative publicity, there’s nothing I can really do to improve it as I was equally disappointed.  It’s a rip-off of all previous science fiction films.  The crew of a rescue ship travels to a distress call only to find that the person rescued carries a hidden secret and wants to kill the inhabitants of the ship.

The special effects look very mediocre, the acting is poor and the script is lacking interest beyond recognition.  This is the sort of film that should never have received a release in Australia and would have been best suited to a straight-to-video release.  It super...sucked.

     

Centre Stage


Directed by: Nicholas Hytner
Written by:Carol Heikkinen
Starring: Amanda Schull, Ethan Stiefel, Susan May Pratt, Shakiem Evans, Ilia Kulik, Sascha Radetsky, Peter Gallagher
Released: September 14, 2000
Grade: B+

Jody Sawyer (Schull) has dreams of being a dancer and at a local tryout is given a wonderful opportunity -an offer to train at the American Ballet Academy.  As teacher Jonathan Reeves (Gallagher) says to his students on the opening day, not all will go on to be a success.  The training will culminate with a gala workshop presentation in four months and from there, only six lucky people will be offered a full-time position with the Academy.

From here the story follows the standard method.  Jody struggles at first and is almost booted out of the Academy before finding her true self.  There is the guy she lusts after, Cooper (Stiefel) and the guy who lusts after her, Charlie (Radetsky).  There’s the gifted, yet uptight Maureen (Pratt) whose mother pushes her hard to get results.  Throw in a few other notables - the foreign student, the gay student, the wild student and all stereotypes are covered.

Although this gives a negative impression, Centre Stage is a very entertaining film for one main reason - the musical numbers.  There are many of them during the film with emphasis on the big finale and the choreography is reminiscent of classic musicals that these days are seldom seen.  It must have taken weeks of effort to pull off the two wonderful stage productions prominent in the film’s final climax.

The producers have not succumbed to casting Hollywood big names and have selected their cast from Ballet schools across the United States.  Schull is a member of the San Francisco Ballet and Radetsky hails from the American Ballet Company.  In an even bigger surprise, Ilia Kulik, who won the men's figure skating gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, plays Sergei the Russian student.

Having a cast with such a wide knowledge of the subject material helps the film immensely and creates passion for the characters.  You get the impression they’ve all felt these pressures before and can strongly relate to what this film has to say.

 

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.

    

Gossip


Directed by: Davis Guggenheim
Written by:Gregory Poirier
Starring: Joshua Jackson, James Marsden, Sharon Lawrence, Kate Hudson, Edward James Olmos, Lena Headey, Norman Reedus
Released: September 14, 2000
Grade: B+

Manipulation of the media is a favourite topic of mine that is interestingly explored in Gossip.  Derrick (Marsden), Cathy (Headey) and Travis (Reedus) are roommates on campus at College.  In a lecture they attend, a discussion evolves on the difference between news and gossip with Derrick on the losing end.

Determined to prove their lecturer wrong, the three set out to create a rumour and then monitor how far it goes and by how much it changes.  Their victims are Naomi (Hudson) and Beau (Jackson) who are a well-known couple in college circles.  Naomi has a fierce reputation of being a virgin and never “giving out”.

When Derrick spies both Naomi and Beau in a romantic moment at a party, Naomi, who is drunk, refuses Beau’s advances before passing out on the bed.  Beau promptly leaves but gives the indication to his mates that he may have just scored.  This gives Derrick’s his rumour to spread - that Naomi, despite all her ethical behaviour, “gave out”.  The experiment becomes a fascinating insight at first but things start to get carried away with people’s lives being put on the line.

Lena Headey gives the film’s best performance and should score some great future roles.  The young cast should be given high praise for all their performances that seem to gel much better than other “teen flicks”.

Director Davis Guggenheim is a newcomer to cinema having worked on TV shows such as Party Of Five, NYPD Blue and ER.  He has created a very dark film right from the intriguing opening scenes in the bar.  Greg Poirier should also be commended for his intelligent screenplay.

Gossip has a lot to say about modern day culture and the power of rumours, whether true or false.  There are plenty of twists and turns and the illusion of what is real and what isn’t will have you guessing all the way to the end.  Just like life.

     

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.

     

Timecode


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...