THE SUBSTITUTE - MRS. WINTERBOURNE - CELTIC PRIDE
JANE EYRE (1996)
- MYSTERY THEATER 3000: THE MOVIE
FLIRTING WITH DISASTER - THE LAST SUPPER

THE SUBSTITUTE

Tom Berenger is Shale, the sole survivor of an aborted US-funded mercenary attack on a illicit drug center in Cuba. He and his remaining team, are laid off by the government - probably some sort of fiscal cutback in mercenary funding. Its going around these days.

Shale goes home to his girlfriend, Janie, who teaches at an inner city highschool in Miami. Meanwhile, Janie has a confrontation in her class with one of her students, Juan Locas, who happens to be the drug kingpin in the school.

Juan threatens revenge (I'm not sure for what) and has Jane kneecapped, but, Shale saves her, at the last moment, from any further harm by a 6 foot 6 Seminole Indian.

While Jane recuperates, and unbeknownst to her, Shale poses as the substitute teacher, faking his credentials and taking her place in the classroom.

The story then bounces around between: Shale captures the hearts and minds of Janes students, showing that, deep down inside, hes really a gang kinda guy just like them; and, he uncovers a gigantic, clandestine drug ring, with Ernie Hudson as the school principal and the real leader of the bad guys.

The story culminates with Shale leading his re-formed band of mercenaries in a military action against the drug ring, destroying the bad guys, and most of the high school, too.

Robin ROBIN:
I have to admit one thing. I got more laughs out of watching The Substitute than I did from Sgt. Bilko and Celtic Pride combined.

Unfortunately, for the filmmakers, it isnt a comedy.

What it is, is one of the stupiest movies I've seen this year. Actually, for pretty much any year this is a stupid movie.

The story premise is moronic. My jaw dropped over a number of what I'll call leaps of faith in the effort to suspend disbelief.

MY disbelief is that the studio allowed this to be made.

For example, girlfriend Janie returns home after her attack. Shes still distraught. Shale tells her everything will be OK and to have an eggroll. An eggroll?

The set pieces that make up the film are, individually, idiotic.

For example again, the bad guys trap Glenn Plummer, an innocent teacher, in the school gym. The writers have him try to get away by climbing up an exercise rope. And they send a guy after him, like, Uh, oh! He might get away!

Tom Berenger is a likable, if non-selective, actor. I also like Diane Verona as the plucky girlfriend. A hard role when youre in a leg cast through most of the movie. Hopefully, audiences will forget that the two were in this film.

This would be an excellent film to show to a rowdy croud. The audience reaction to this makes me think that it could be, potentially, a camp classic in  bad filmmaking. I even heard it compared to director Ed Woods films.

Honestly, as a film, I have to give it a D+. But, Ill tell you, this is going to be a guilty pleasure that Ill give a few viewings to once it comes on subscription TV. I may put this on the same plane as one of my favorite jingoist films, Red Dawn.

A better title might be  To Sir, With Guns.

Laura LAURA:
Well, this is funnier than most so-called comedies I've seen this year and I can say that I've had far worse times at the movies.  The Substitute is jaw-droppingly stupid - vigilantism taken to the extreme.  One most wonder if the filmmakers were serious - they've got a fine cast of actors here including 'Heat's' Diana Verona and 'Speed's Glenn Plummer as well as character actors the caliber of John Forsythe.  Did Tom Berringer and the rest realize what they had signed up for?

Here's a film where a retired merc weasels his way into a substitute teaching position to uncover the gang member responsible for his girlfriend's injury, but instead uncovers a hugh cocaine operation run by the high school principal (Ernie Hudson)????  Hey - didn't anyone notice all that coke and drug equipment in the school's boiler room?  And when a teacher stumbles onto the operation, he tries to escape by climbing up a gym rope?

I had a lot of trouble rating this one - yeah, it's a bad movie, but it was so much fun - the MST3K guys aren't even needed!

C


MRS. WINTERBOURNE

is a light comedic take on the 1948 Cornell Woolrich novel 'I Married a Dead Man' which was filmed as a Barbara Stanwyck drama in 1950 - 'No Man of Her Own'.  Ricki Lake is Connie Doyle, a pathetic, naive 18 year old from NJ who goes to NYC to start her life and ends up pregnant and homeless in short order.  She manages to board an Amtrak train to Boston instead of the NY subway and meets up with Hugh Winterbourne and his pregnant wife who take her under their wing shortly before a train crash kills the Winterbournes and leaves Connie alive and confused by the hospital with Patricia Winterbourne.  The Winterbournes are tremendously wealthy, and, as luck would have it, have never met their new daughter-in-law.  Hugh also has a twin brother, Bill, played by Brendon Fraser.  Connie/Patricia's new mother-in-law Grace, played by Shirley MacLaine, is much more accepting of the new family member than her new brother-in-law.

Laura LAURA:
This appears to be a Boston-themed show what with this and Celtic Pride - here we get the Freedom Trail, the Mass. Ave. Bridge and the Public Gardens.

It's nice to see Brendan Fraser developing as an actor - he's quite charming and does a nice job of making a distinct differentiation between the twin brothers, even though one's only on screen for about a minute before getting killed.  Shirley MacLaine's clearly enjoying herself and is so relaxed and natural in this that's it's a pleasure to watch her.  Migual Sandoval as the gay Cuban butler has a nice repartee with MacLaine and gets a number of genuine laughs.

None of them can save this dog, however, because Ricki Lake is so utterly charmless that she pulls the whole film down around her.  She may have been OK in a couple of John Waters films, but I'd advise her to hang onto her talk show gig.

Ultimately this movie is pretty painful to sit through.  It also has one of the least believable train wrecks ever put on film.

D

CELTIC PRIDE

Celtic Pride is, obstensibly, the story of two Boston sports fanatical fanatics, Jimmy Flaherty and Mike OHara, played by Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern.

Its the end of the season, the Celtics are in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz, and the Boston Garden is in its final days of existence. The series sits at 3 to 3, with the Jazz staying in the game,  due to the efforts of their hotdog superstar player, Louis Scott, portrayed by Damon Wayans.

The two Celts fans concoct a plan to get Scott roaring drunk the night before the big final game, making him miss it, or, at least, be incapacitated during it.

The plan goes awry when they wake up the morning after and find theyve bound Scott, and have, effectively, committed the federal crime of kidnapping.

The remainder of the film meanders along with Wayans making abortive attempts to escape until he finally makes it to the big game AND exacts his revenge against Jimmy and Mike.

Robin ROBIN:
This is a rarity in the world of comedy films - there was not a single laugh, for me, to be found in the entire run time of Celtic Pride.

It took 40 minutes to get to the concept of abducting Louis. In that 40 minutes, it only showed that Jimmy and Mike are losers who live the accomplishments of sports figures as if were their own. They ignore anything in their lives that is not sports related.

In Mikes case, it means having a wife who keeps a set of divorce papers handy, hes such a louse. He also ignores his son, but thats not even an issue.

Jimmy is the ultimate sports fan. Hes a memory bank of obscure sports trivia and a collector of sports memorabilia. Thats his life. I dont think anyone would want to share it.

Now, about the kidnapping. Its actually a series of efforts by Louis to get away from Jimmy and Mike. Whats painful is that any one of the attempts could succeed, if Louis only cared.

Damon Wayans doesnt appear to care too much about this film either.

Enough. Im going to do something that I rarely do. Lauras rule of if its in focus and you can hear it, it should get a D-, at least. This is a good rule and generally applies.

In this case, rules are sometimes meant to be broken, and I give this a great, big F!!

JANE EYRE (1996)

is the 4th remake of the Charlotte Bronte classic, this time brought to the screen by Franco Zeffirelli, who created the definitive 'Romeo and Juliet' for the times a generation ago.  Jane Eyre stars Oscar winner Anna Paquin as the young Jane, orphaned and left with a hateful Aunt Reed before spending 10 years at the equally soul-crushing Lowwood School before obtaining a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall.  The housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax played by Joan Plowright, greats her warmly and the adult Jane, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, couldn't be happier in her new surroundings.  But there are strange noises at night attributed to a strange servant - Grace Poole, played by Billie Whitelaw.  And the enimagtic master of the house, Rochester, (played by William Hurt) is rarely present, until he discovers Jane in his employ. Rochester's sardonic ways keep Jane on edge.

Laura LAURA:
William Hurt is just terrific in this film - we're talking Oscar caliber performance in my book.  He manages to convey multiple shades of meaning in a simple line - when Jane shows him a sketch she's drawn of him and he says 'You have me utterly', you know he's talking about more than his likeness.

I'd go so far as to say this is the definitive version of this classic story.  Charlotte Gainsbourg physically fits the character of Jane Eyre as written much better than Joan Fontaine or Susannah York ever could, and she gives a fine, subtle performance as well.

The supporting cast (which also includes Geraldine Chaplin, Amanda Root, John Wood, Fiona Shaw, Elle McPherson and Maria Scheider!) all complement the story.  A tiny flaw - Joan Plowright's Mrs. Fairfax is just a bit too upbeat - she put me in mind of Angela Lansbury's teapot from 'Beauty and the Beast'.

The locations are perfect - a most imposing Thornfield Hall was found. The landscape is gorgeous, but also bleak.  The score is lushly romantic.

A-

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000:  THE MOVIE

Our next movie brings the cult-hit TV series Mystery Science Theatre 3000 to the big screen. The series was recently dropped by HBOs Comedy Central, despite something like 50,000 letters and e-mail messages from fansprotesting the cancellation.

Anyway, for fans of the show, you know what its about.

For the uninitiated to Mystery Science Theatre 3000, let me try to explain:

Evil Scientist, Dr. Clayton Forrester, the product of a difficult childhood, has decided to exact his vengance against an innocent world. His experiment involves finding the worst movies ever made and bombard the unsuspecting public with them, driving them to their knees, with the mad doctor ultimately ruling the world!

He needs a guinea pig to proves his theory will work, so he kidnaps a regular kind of Joe, Mike Nelson, and deposits him on the unmanned, til now, orbiting space station, the Satellite of Love.

On the Love, Mike is teamed up with robots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot and the three are forced to watch the cheesiest films the mad doctor can find.

For their big screen debut, Dr. Forrester selects the 1955 science fiction camp classic This Island Earth as the fodder to feed our happless heroes.

Robin ROBIN:
Actually, I was a little disappointed in this. The hype was such that this is not just another version of the series. It is supposed to be longer, lower, wider and easy to handle.

Yes, the production of the space ship and those set pieces are far superior to the show, but so what. The reason I am a fan of the show is because of what these guys do in front of the bad movie. Thats what I watch.

That said,  The Movie is up there with the best of the series. I believe, and you fans can correct me if Im wrong - go look it up, will ya! - they had used This Island Earth in the series, too.

The main difference between The Movie and The Show, looks to be that they can use profanity in the movie that the show doesnt allow. No big deal. Maybe even a bit gratuitous and unnecessary.

There were a goodly number of yucks at the onscreen banter. I think The Substitute gave me more big laughs, fewer chuckles.

The Movie should help to get the reruns of the show a new viewing audience and maybe even a new life. Well see.

This will make its best impression on the small screen, it more like one of the better examples of the show.

I give it wavering B-, but recommend it for fun cable fodder.

Laura LAURA:
This might be worthwhile for those who have been deprived of MST3K on the Comedy Channel, but I suspect it was made for the current fan base, which leads me to ask - why?  Except for a bigger budget for the Satellite of Love sets and a couple of mild 4-letter words, I didn't see anything I couldn't see on TV for free - this wasn't even up to their most hilarious episode.

We happened to catch the uncut 'This Island Earth' right after seeing this and I'm surprised at what they kept of the film and what they cut - extensive scenes of stablization tubes are kept to make multiple unnecessary fart jokes, while some scenes that could have really been milked for humor were left out.

I figure that at a run time of about 75 minutes, MST3K: The Movie costs a dime a minute - I would have rather have made a 75 minute long distance Sprint phone call for my money.

C+

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER

is about the mid-life crisis Mel Copeland, played by Ben Stiller, suffers in his twenties after he's had his first child.  Mel's adopted (adoptive parents played by Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal) and wants to search out his birth parents before naming his child.  Inept adoption agency councilor Tina, played by Tea Leone, locates Mel's Mom and he, Tina, and the ever-more neglected wife Nancy, played by Patricia Arquette, set off on a looney search for Mel's roots.

Laura LAURA:
This sophomore effort from 'Spanking the Monkey' director David O. Russell sounds like it would be nutty fun, but I didn't find myself laughing very much - it oftentimes seemed to be quirky for quirkiness' sake.  I usually like Ben Stiller, but here his character isn't very appealing.  Tea Leone seemed awkward in her role.  Patricia Arquette, who's essentially the straight man, was the most appealing character of the bunch.

I found the most fun in this film to be with the subplot characters.  When Mel crashes a truck into a post office, the FBI's called in.  The two FBI officers turn out to be a gay couple and the younger of the two is an old high school friend of Nancy's, so they join the entourage.  Due to the odd group dynamics, no one ever wants to sit with Paul, the older FBI man, to escalating comic effect.  Also interesting is Mel's half brother Lonnie, who has an almost pathological jealousy of his new-found sibling.

On the whole, though, I think this has been highly overrated, unless your idea of high comedy is Mary Tyler Moore exposing her miracle bra.

C+

Robin ROBIN:
This movie was hyped by the critics and fans as being a terrific, fast-paced, deftly-handled comedy.

It isnt.

It IS an uneven piece of work with a rather silly premise of a man finding his birth parents. Somehow, rights to privacy are ignored and money is no object as the family and Tea Leoni galavant around the country finding the wrong parent.

This whole sequence takes up the bulk of the film and does not hold your attention too well. Thankfully, the late arrival to Stillers real parents, played by Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin, as not exactly former Hippies helps to save what was bordering on being a yawner.

Once they get into the act, a little life is breathed into the film to help it get to its conclusion. Unfortunately, by the time you get to the end, a little life is all thats left.

Ben Stiller is a schmuck who doesnt have a clue.

Patricia Arquette is the sensible one, but a follower.

Tea Leoni is very pretty, but, I dont know why she's here.

The gay FBI couple is cute, but more nonsense.

Appearances by the veterans, and Bens brother Lonny, helps to save Flirting with Disaster from flirting with disaster.

C

THE LAST SUPPER

This wasn't reviewed on Reeling due to lack of video clips, but here's a quick review.  The Last Supper is about a six liberal middle class college grad students who room together in an Iowa farmhouse and invite a guest each week for dinner and conversation.  When one of the roommates' car breaks down, he's given a lift in a pickup truck driven by Bill Paxton. The group decides to invite the stranger for dinner, but it's quickly apparent that they have a white supremist redneck on their hands.  Things get out of control, Paxton gets downright scary, and one of the roommates stabs him in the back with a butcher knife.  Roommate Courtney B. Vance remains calmest and suggests that they simply get rid of the body.  In fact, he suggests that maybe they've just done the world a favor.  After they manage to do this with no consquences, the roommates decide to invite someone with opposing views to dinner each week and if they can't persuade the guest to question his/her values.....

Laura LAURA:
The Last Supper is like 'My Dinner with Andre' crossed with 'Motel Hell'. The favorite conundrum they ask each other is 'if you were having a drink in a bar in 1930 with a young Austrian painter named Adolph, would you kill him to save millions, even though he hadn't done anything yet?'.

The idea is a good one for a film and it's mostly handled well.  The parade of guests who are served poison wine include a priest who believes AIDS was sent by God to rid the world of homosexuals, an anti environmentalist, and a timid woman who objects to certain books being in the school library. The most interesting guest is a major coup for the group - a Rush Limbaugh-like talk show host named Norman, played by Ron Perlman, who turns out to make a lot more sense in person and wrecks havoc with the groups' dynamics.

A nice ending, wonderful title sequence and good cast for a low-budget film which mostly takes place within the one farmhouse.

B

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