Reviews

The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas


Directed by: Briant Levant
Written by:Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr
Starring: Mark Addy, Stephen Baldwin, Kristen Johnston, Jane Krakowski, Thomas Gibson, Joan Collins, Alan Cumming
Released: June 22, 2000
Grade: B

The Flintstones was a big hit of the 1994 film season taking in $130m and finishing as the number five film for the year.  The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas isn’t up to standard of its predecessor but there are still plenty of laughs to keep the audience amused.

In this tradition of The Phantom Menace, this episode is a prequel to the original.  We are introduced to Fred and Barney as a little green alien named Gazoo comes down from outer space.  Remember him?  Fred and Barney of course can only see Gazoo and his mission is to observe the human mating ritual.

This isn’t quite so easy for Gazoo because Fred and Barney are not married and have no girlfriends.  That is until they come across two lovely ladies, Wilma and Betty, at the local fast food joint, the Bronto King.  As the story progresses, we find Wilma’s family is quite wealthy and her family has plans on her marrying wealthy casino owner, Chip Rockefeller.  Fred has other ideas...

Sure it’s not designed to be a critics' favourite and it does rehash jokes from the original but it’s still fun to go back into the fictional world of Bedrock.  The set decoration from Jan Pascale is fantastic and it’s worth keeping your eyes pealed in every scene for tiny details that make the world seem all the more like the one from the TV series.

Mark Addy was a surprising choice as Fred but does a good job and his voice especially brings Fred to life.  Stephen Baldwin and Kristen Johnston were perhaps miscast but Jane Krakowski was a good selection as Betty Rubble.  It was also pleasant to see a funny supporting cast including Thomas Gibson, Joan Collins and especially Alan Cumming, who plays both Gazoo and rock star, Mick Jagged.

It’s kept simple and is a great selection for the kids these school holidays.  It won’t have the same draw for adults but frankly, it’s a lot more entertaining then some other “comedy” films that have been released in recent months.

     

Me, Myself And Irene


Directed by: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Written by:Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Starring: Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, Richard Jenkins, Traylor Howard
Released: June 22, 2000
Grade: B-

The Farrelly brothers redefined the comedy genre with Dumb And Dumber, the underrated Kingpin and of course who can forget There’s Something About Mary.  They have proved with their latest, Me, Myself And Irene, that nobody is perfect.

Jim Carrey plays Charlie, a local police officer from Rhode Island who was happily married until his wife left him for the wedding chauffeur.  Now with three sons to raise on his own, Charlie is the laughing stock of the community because of his inability to observe his wife’s infidelities (the hints are rather obvious).  Charlie has bottled up his emotions and refuses to move on in life.  That is until he develops a split persona - Hank.  Hank is the exact opposite of Charlie and isn’t somebody you want to mess with.

Irene (Zellweger) arrives in town from New York but is forced to return when summoned by the police and it is Charlie’s responsibility to escort her there.  Things become twisted when an attempt is made to eliminate Irene under the assumption she knows details of a big money laundering scam.  In the mayhem that ensues, Charlie loses his schizophrenia medication, which releases Hank from within, and both have fallen for Irene...

The Farrelly’s are the kings of gross-out comedy and this film makes an effort to push the boundaries even further.  There are some truly disgusting moments highlighted by a scene involving a bet, a police officer and a chicken.  Another highlight came when Hank tries to put down an injured cow.  There were however plenty of jokes that left an eerily dead silence in the cinema with a good example being a lengthy scene between Charlie/Hank and an albino waiter at a restaurant.

Jim Carrey has all his facial expressions on show but they’ve been seen many times before and their amusement is short lived.  Rene Zellweger plays second fiddle to Carrey and does little to advance the comedy.  Most members of the supporting cast are also wasted.  It seems Carrey’s gets all the great lines and the rest are left as puppets.

The film is a bunch of set-up jokes with a story based around them.  This was a similar technique to that used effectively in There’s Something About Mary.  The application is not quite as productive in Me, Myself & Irene due to the weaker cast and script.

Featuring plenty of toilet humour (and I mean that literally at times), this new film will take a big chunk out of the box-office yet leave many expectations unmet.  The Farrelly brothers will be back with bigger and better material as they continue to take chances and I do look forward to seeing their next film.  As for now, this is just another one of “those” comedies that you’d expect from a Martin Lawrence or an Adam Sandler.  Certainly not a Jim Carrey.

     

Dinosaur


Directed by: Eric Leighton, Ralph Zondag
Written by:Walon Green, John Harrison, Robert Nelson Jacobs
Starring: Julianna Margulies, D.B. Sweeney, Joan Plowright, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Alfre Woodard, Della Reese
Released: June 15, 2000
Grade: C+

Computer animation is now becoming more and more prominent on the big screen.  It was only five years ago when Toy Story took home an honorary Academy Award for been the first movie ever produced entirely by computer.  In its wake has followed successes such as Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life and Antz, all of which have attained critical acclaim and big box-office dollars.

Dinosaur (from Walt Disney, of course) again uses wonderful animation but cannot be compared to the above examples because of a poor screenplay.  Five screenwriters are credited and that’s a sure sign of script problems.

It is the story of a dinosaur named Aladar whose egg winds up under the care of a family of monkeys who raise and care for him.  When a meteor shower strikes the Earth wiping out most of the vegetation, Aladar and the monkeys set off to find a new place to live.  They meet a race of dinosaur who are on a journey to a secret breeding ground when fresh plants and water are in abundance.  It will take many days of travel across the desert to get there and the presences of vicious carnivores will make the journey a hazardous one.

Leading the pack of dinosaurs is Kron, a strict leader.  When Aladar arrives trying to help their cause, Kron finds his authority threatened and the success of the journey jeopardised.  Things are further complicated when Aladar falls for Kron’s sister, Neera.

Walt Disney is usually responsible for creating such wonderful stories for their films which capture the heart of both kids and adults (ala Toy Story 2).  Dinosaur is boring for the parents and boring for the kids who will be easily distracted.

Several of the dinosaurs look the same and given their obscure names, identifying one from the other is unnecessarily difficult.  James Newton Howard provides the film score for Dinosaur that overrides many patches of dialogue further frustrating the viewing experience.  Even more bizarre is the film’s length - 82 minutes, which includes both a lengthy opening sequence and closing credits.  You only just get the kids settled and have the story develop before it’s all over.

The voice list includes D. B. Sweeney, Julianna Margulies, Joan Plowright, Ossie Davis, Max Casella and Alfre Woodard.  Not big names by Hollywood standards but they do breathe a little life into these otherwise dull characters.

A high standard has been set with animation and it’s had a pretty good ride.  Dinosaur will fail to meet the successes of previous animations and a sharper story will need to be considered before we see Disney’s next entry (which will probably be due around this time next year).

 

Onegin


Directed by: Martha Fiennes
Written by:Peter Ettedgui, Michael Ignatieff
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Liv Tyler, Martin Donovan, Toby Stephens
Released: June 22, 2000
Grade: C

Period pieces are often the story of tragic romances and yes, Onegin is no exception.  We are introduced to Evgeny Onegin (Fiennes) as he discovers that his uncle has passed away and left him the country estate.  Evgeny, who enjoys the city life in St. Petersburg, travels to his new mansion to enjoy what the country has to offer him.

One afternoon whilst hunting in the woods, he befriends a man named Vladimir Lensky (Toby Stephens).  Through Vladimir his is introduced to the neighbours, the Larinas, who don’t take too warmly to his intentions to rent his mansion and farming grounds to slaves.  The Larinas have two daughters, one who is engaged to Vladimir and another, Tatyana who finds a closeness with Evgeny but Evgeny’s harsh outerself prevents her getting closer.  The movie then follows the torment that both suffer over their closeted romance.

Slow and deliberate are appropriate words to describe this tale.  Based on a poem by Alexander Pushkin, this is the third attempt to bring his story to the big screen.  Director, Martha Fiennes (sister of Ralph) creates a very quiet work with soft background music and few words creating an eerily silent movie theatre.

Fiennes and Tyler appear comatose in their roles and whilst this was clearly the filmmaker’s intention it makes Onegin a tiring experience.  The costumes, the sets, the cinematography are all beautiful but it’s little solace to the repetitious screenplay.  Surely more happened in these times than soured romances?  This film would have received more appreciation with a little more colour, a speedier pace and a lot more substance.

     

Down To You


Directed by: Kris Isacsson
Written by:Kris Isacsson
Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr, Julia Stiles, Shawn Hatosy, Selma Blair, Ashton Kutcher
Released: June 8, 2000
Grade: C-

The film world has taken another turn for the worse thanks to Down To You.  I set new records for squirming after enduring this mismatched teen romantic comedy that looks like it was put together by some ape-like creature.

We start off meeting Al (Prinze Jr) and Imogen (Stiles) in the future and we have nothing but flashbacks into the past as the pieces of the story fit together.  They meet, they fall in love, everything is perfect.  Then things change, they drift apart, Imogen moves away and both succumb to depression.  What happens next?  Provided you have a double-digit IQ, you’ll know.

These characters are nothing but cardboard cutouts.  They have no “human” qualities and are nothing but rich, spoilt brats.  Prinze Jr and Stiles are terrifyingly boring together and the entertainment (if any) comes from the supporting cast with notable entrances from Monk (Zak Orth) and Eddie (Shawn Hatosy).

One observation.  The couple first meet and share a romantic moment in Central Park.  Why are movies filled with so many clichés?  In Mission: Impossible 2, they continually showed the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Centrepoint Tower.  Directors continually use the same backdrops and icons in every film these days and it is tiring.  To use another example, how many movies have you seen set in France that doesn’t feature at least one shot of the Eiffel Tower?

If all this were true, the first place I’d be heading to in New York would be Central Park.  Surely I’d meet my true love in the most romantic circumstance and maybe even see a couple of wild police chases.  Apparently, everything that happens in New York happens around Central Park.

The teen-romantic genre is in dire need of a facelift and I can’t believe that Miramax would attach their names to this project.  It was obviously designed as a cheap money-spinner but was a major disappointment at the U.S. box-office.  Finally, the public have spoken.

     

Bringing Out The Dead


Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by:Paul Schrader
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Patricia Arquette, John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Mary Beth Hurt, Tom Sizemore, Marc Anthony
Released: June 15, 2000
Grade: A-

Frank Pierce (Cage) is an ambulance attendant.  In the past, he loved his job and the thrill of saving somebody’s life.  Now things are different and Frank is deeply depressed.  Every night he finds himself called out to cardiac arrests, drug overdoes, shootings and the strain is all too much to handle.  In his last 12 days, he called in sick 4 times and been late 9 times.  How?  On one particular day he was late but then decided to go home sick.

This is the story of three days in Frank’s life on the road to redemption.  The kickstart to his depression came several months ago when on the job, he failed to save the life of a young lady.  He still hears her voice everyday and his madness continues as her forgiveness is sought.

Martin Scorsese (Kundun, Casino, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver) has a high reputation that must be very difficult to live up to.  The look of New York City he creates through the camera lens is dark and joyless and yet so absorbing at the same time.  It’s funny that in the space of two weeks we’ve seen two very different impressions of New York, in both Bringing Out The Dead and Keeping The Faith, that both work in their own ways.

Nicolas Cage relies heavily on his experiences from filming Leaving Las Vegas, a masterpiece released in 1996.  His performance in this role is mundane in that it resembles everything we’ve seen before from Cage (in film’s such as Vegas and 8MM).  In hindsight, he did play the character well but perhaps a different actor could provide a needed freshness.

With the exception of Patricia Arquette, who was nothing but a bore, the supporting cast came through with all the film’s lightest and finest moments.  John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, Cliff Curtis and Afemo Omilami as Griss are hilarious as they interplay with Cage.

Bringing Out The Dead is a complicated film with a complicated significance.  As funny as some of these situations are, there’s an underlying message that shows just how miserable the world has become.  It’s a tough life as an ambulance attendant and it’s a part of life that has rarely been explored on screen.  As I drove home from this film, an ambulance came flashing past me on the opposite side of the road at half speed.  For once I didn’t think who was in the back of that ambulance but rather who was driving it.