MULHOLLAND FALLS - SUNSET PARK - THE CRAFT
FLIPPER - THE PALLBEARER - FRANK AND OLLIE
Mulholland Falls is about the true life 1950's Hat Squad, an elite group of LA detectives who used their own sense of justice to fight crime. Nick Nolte is the main man, supported by Chaz Palminteri - a guy in therapy before it was fashionable and the more generic characters played by Michael Madsen and Chris Penn. When a murder victim is found, turns out that she was Nolte's lover, and when suspicions in her murder point back to the Atomic Energy Commision, Nolte's fearful that he'll become a blackmail pawn, as his loving wife, played by Melanie Griffith knows nothing of his affair.
I was eagerly anticipating New Zealander Lee Tamahori's directorial followup to his powerful "Once Were Warriers." I've been disappointed. "Mulhulland Falls" looks fabulous - it employs the same art director and cinematographer as the classic "Chinatown" which it so clearly wants to emulate. It also offers up some decent performances from actors not particularly known for their acting abilities - namely Melanie Griffith and Andrew McCarthy. The story tries to create webs of intrigue, but most of them are pretty transparent or just plain uninspired when the 'mystery' is revealed.
Kudos for technical credits. Boring story.
"Sunset Park," by director Steve Gomer, stars Rhea Perlman as Phyliss Saroca, a phys. ed. teacher at an inner city high school in New York.
She wants to quit her job and move to St. Croix, so, when she hears of an opening for coach of the schools boys basketball team - with more money - she jumps at it.
The only problem is, she doesnt know a thing about basketball. The team members, virtually coachless the previous year, are thoroughly unimpressed with Phyliss.
The one exception is the heart of the team, Shorty, played by Fredro Starr. He is the spark responsible for igniting Phyliss and the rest of the team to be the best they can be and strive to win.
The coach and team form a bond as she helps them, they help each other, and, finally, they all get a shot a the city title.
This isn't "Blue Chip" or "Hoop Dreams" by a long shot, but it is a good natured sports film that has a few positive things going for it, but not Rhea Perlman.
The suprises here are the kids on the team and the way their characters are drawn in the script.
Led by Fredro Starr, all the members of the team have character and personality. This is a delightful departure from the usual teenage group film, where two or three are fully developed and all the rest are background noise.
Here, virtually all the kids are people, with emotions and feelings well developed.
Couple this with the fact that theyre not a bunch of losers who overcome adversity, and/or lack of talent, to be heroes. In Sunset Park, all the kids, with one exception (and HIS metamorphosis is plausible), are all good players.
The build of the story has Phyliss learning how to coach and the boys learning how to be a team. Its formula, but the kids make it work.
Problem, besides Perlman, who isnt a convincing coach - I have higher hopes for the upcoming Eddie with Whoopie Goldberg - is that the story tries to cover to much ground with the stories of the boys, particularly Shorty. His story is far more complex than the rest, but is not examined in sufficient detail.
A bit of judicial rewriting and casting someone else as coach would have made this a better film.
However, I applaud its energy and intelligence and give it a B-.
The Craft is about a group of three female misfits at a California High School who've banded together. Fairuza Balk is Nancy - the one with the white trash trailer part background and the fiestiest member. Neve Campbell is Bonnie, the girl with terrible burn scars all over her back. Rachel True is Rochelle - a black in a predominantly white school. When Sara, played by Robin Tunney, transfers into the school, she's not treated kindly until Bonnie notices her exhibiting telekenetic ability over a pencil during class. Voila - they've found their fourth and all is wonderful - for a while.
I really like Fairuza Balk as an actress and I really enjoyed her here as the group member who goes mad from her new-found magical powers and begins to tumble into the blacker aspects of the game(?) This is a consistently paced story, realistically acted with just the right amount of special effects, used judiciously. I particularly enjoyed one of the more restrained effects scenes where Nancy turns on an old boyfriend - the combination of minimal effects and Balk's acting make her seem like a human rendition of Michael Keaton's crazed snake monster in "Beetlejuice!"
Technically, Robin Tunney's the star of this, and she turns in a solid performance. Campbell and True are fine, but not given as much to do. I have to commend writer/director Andrew Fleming for putting as much effort and craft into this as he has - not often seen in a film directed at teenagers. "The Craft" also features an interesting alternative soundtrack featuring the likes of "Letters to Cleo" and "Jewel."
This isn't a great supernatural movie, but it's not bad. I found it to be a cross between "Heathers" and "The Witches of Eastwick."
I've liked Fairuza Balk since she first started in film. Her striking features are perfectly suited to the look of her character, Nancy. An added bonus is shes a damn good actor, too. She, though technically not the star, is the highlight of the movie.
Robin Tunney, the real lead, does well enough and is a pretty girl, but Balk brings the weight of real film experience to the screen.
The rest of the cast is OK, a little shallow or undeveloped, in the case of the resident town witch, Ariel.
A plus are the variety of special effects to convey witchcraft, from simple telekenesis to some really wild scenes like you saw in the show opener.
Nice looking and appropriately moody cinematography.
The Craft should do well with teenage girls and, for obvious reasons, with teenage boys, too. It took first place in box office, if thats any indication.
I give it a B
Next on tonight's list is Flipper, the remake of the 60's films and TV series, this time starring Elijah Wood as Sandy Ricks, a rebellious 14-year-old sent to live with his uncle for the summer as Sandys parents go through a messy divorce.
Uncle Porter, played by Paul Hogan, is an eccentric fisherman living on an out of the way tropical island. Hes pretty well set in his ways, so he and the morose Sandy lock horns right away.
As the story progresses, the two come to a sort of living accomodation.
At the same time, Sandy has the great good fortune to make the acquaintance of a very special new friend, Flipper.
We're entering, it seems, an age where the sole material source for films will be remaking old TV shows. We've had "The Brady Bunch," which was very good, and "Sgt. Bilko," which wasnt. We have "Mission: Impossible" coming up fast, and "McHale's Navy" looming on the horizon, too.
So a remake of the old "Flipper" film/show, especially with the "Free Willy" franchise so successful, makes alot of commercial sense.
Fortunately, writer/director Alan Shapiro, along with a slue of writers, put together a fairly intricate story and competent cast in an appealling setting.
Elijah Wood is starting his transition into young adult roles. He does well, as does Paul Hogan - who brings new meaning to the term creative housekeeping. But, the two almost play second banana to the real star of the film - "Flipper."
The film does a solid job of developing the relationship between a boy and his dolphin, and with his uncle. And, the human stars, at least, learn the true value of committment.
I like the look of the film. The underwater photography is beautifully done, and there's alot of it - which leads me to the films one problem:
It is not for younger kids. The story is too languid to hold their attention past the first 15 minutes. I suggest that age 5 or 6 on up is better.
A decent kid's film as we come up on summer. I give it a B
This certainly wasn't a film I was looking forward to seeing - quite the opposite I'm afraid. So imagine my surprise when I discovered it was actually enjoyable on some levels. Paul Hogan's just being himself again - not much of a stretch from his "Crocodile Dundee" character - but that's an enjoyable character! Robin and I have both been waiting to see how child star Elijiah Wood would transition into older roles - you can't really tell here, but I'd rather watch him than MacCauley Kulkin any day. The underwater photography is really well done - a lot of patience was used here. The story goes through all it's necessary plot points without too many surprises but without leaving any loose ends. A solid if unoriginal family film.
The Pallbearer is the film debut of Friends' star David Schwimmer and a 90's updating of "The Graduate." He's a twenty-something who hasn't been able to land that first post-college professional job, still living at home with eccentric Mom, Carol Kane. His best friends include a married couple and a dubiously engaged couple. One day he gets an odd phone call from Ruth Abernathy, played by Barbara Hershey, informing that his best friend has died and would he be a pallbearer and say the eulogy - trouble is, Tom doesn't remember this guy, but his devastated and sexy Mom sure needs sympathy. To make matters even more interesting, Tom's old crush Julie, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, has arrived in town for a brief visit.
"The Pallbearer" is better than a lot of what's passed for romantic comedy this year, but it's not exactly gut-wrenchingly funny or particularly original either. It is fairly true to the age group it portrays, however, with some real sounding dialogue and situations. I was crushed to see Carol Kane relegated to playing someone's Mom until I saw what fun she injected into the role. Barbara Hershey gives a meaty performance as the mysteriously Middle-European accented, brashly sexy, needy woman. Schwimmer's OK - this won't hurt his career by any means, but it won't set on it any more fire than it already is. Paltrow's convincingly confused in a lovely way. Toni Collette of "Muriel's Wedding" fame makes an inauspicous American debut as the married friend. I always enjoy Michael Rappaport - here he's the guy walking straight into one of those marriages that looked doomed to everyone except those doing the marryin'.
At least the filmmakers had the sense not to make the ending too pat.
For David Schwimmer, this is not much of a stretch from "Friends." Fortunately, for him, The Pallbearer isn't a bad film, so the duplication of his Ross character from "Friends" isn't to distracting. In the film, his Tom is just a little more of a schlemiel than Ross.
Not a stretch and don't leave your day job, just yet, David.
The big pleasure in this film is the deft and convincing performance given by Barbara Hershey as the mother of the dead young man. Her character, Ruth, is, among other things, vulnernable, strong, sensitive and loving. Hershey is able to make Ruth a real person, down to her use of a subtle and slight middle-European accent.
Gwyneth Paltrow's portrayal as Julie is rather tentative. She plays less the love interest to Schwimmer and more of the confused kindred spirit to his Tom. Shes sweet and kind of befuddled. A plus to the film.
Supporting cast, including your favorite, Michael Rappaport, are two dimensional, best.
Its not outright funny enough to be a ha-ha lot-of-laughs kind of comedy. And, its not really a romance.
Actually, I'm not really sure what "The Pallbearer" is supposed to be. It is a rather sweet film about confused young people, who, in the end, are a little better able to cope with the troubles of life.
Hersheys the draw. Schwimmer should stick with his Friends a while more.
I give "The Pallbearer" a C+
FRANK AND OLLIE
Before we close the show, we want to mention a new documentary called "Frank and Ollie," which accounts the careers of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of the original Nine Old Men of Disney, who, in the 30s changed the fabric of animation from merely cartoons to complex cinematic features, starting with Snow White and continuing for 23 more animated features.
This is a solid documentary, but had the weird effect, when showing me clips from their films, I found myself thinking that, I'd rather be watching, and fill in the blank. Offhanded high praise for the creators of great animation. I give it a B.
These two men have literally been together since college days - they married within a year, bought adjoining plots of land to build their homes (where they still live), had their first sons within 6 DAYS of each other and still see each other every day. Frank's the left-brainer and Ollie's the right-brainer. There's a great sequence which illustrates this in how they each relate to their dogs.
Mostly done in talking heads style, "Frank and Ollie" is a heartwarming piece of work (directed by Franks's son). Some of the best sequences are those that intercut Frank and/or Ollie acting out a Disney character in front of a dropcloth followed by the animated piece itself. As much as I liked "Frank and Ollie," I think it would be better served on the small screen.
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