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By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:42pm

SCREAM 2 (**1/2)
(First Reviewed: 6/15/04)
Like the original SCREAM film, the characters know the rules of horror flicks — even the rules of horror sequels. Higher body count and more gore. This "rule" typically ruins other horror sequels and succeeds in doing the same with SCREAM 2…

You might be able to guess the killer(s), but you'll never guess why. The film does have some intelligence. I liked the classroom debate about films influencing behavior, the talk about sequel clichés and the identity of the killer was pretty ingenious, especially the killers' line explaining their motivation.


SHORT CUTS (1993) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:29pm

Robert Altman is the master of films with large casts where the lives of the various characters intertwine. This film is a look at the lives of 22 characters living in Los Angeles, which clearly influenced the work of Paul Thomas Anderson. The three-hour plus movie plays like a giant slice of life character study of the various cast members.

Ann Finnigan (Andie MacDowell, GROUNDHOG DAY) is married to TV commentator Howard Finnigan (Bruce Davison, LONGTIME COMPANION). Their son Casey (Lane Cassidy) is hit by car on his way to school. Waitress Doreen Piggot (Lily Tomlin, 9 TO 5) was driving the car and tries to take care of the kid, but he refuses to get in a car with a stranger and walks home. Doreen is married to a drunk limo driver named Earl (Tom Waits, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA), who is hated by Doreen’s daughter Honey Bush (Lili Taylor, SAY ANYTHING…), who is married to sleazy make-up artist Bill (Robert Downey Jr., CHAPLIN).


SCREAM 3 (2000) (*1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 11:09pm

SCREAM reinvented modern horror and now stands as a classic of the genre. For fans of the original, SCREAM 2 was a good follow-up. SCREAM 3 is a disaster.

The first place to look for the reason would be in the writing credits. SCREAM creator Kevin Williamson wrote the first two films, but Ehren Kruger (THE RING, THE SKELETON KEY) tackled the third. He tries too hard to copy Williamson’s hip self-referential style and fails miserably. One of the major problems of the film is that it’s made for people who have seen the first two films. I think people who haven’t seen the first two films, or haven’t seen them recently even, will be lost.

Another problem is that Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell, THE COMPANY) is really short changed in the film. She’s theoretically the central character in the film, but most of the screen time and action is consumed and driven by the Dewey Riley (David Arquette, READY TO RUMBLE) and Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox, TV’s FRIENDS) characters. In SCREAM 2, the bickering relationship between the two characters was interesting, but here it’s just irritating and redundant.


PHANTOMS (1998) (*1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 9:55pm

This horrible horror flick is based on a Dean Koontz book, which is unread by me. He’s a writer that seems to fall into the categories of love him or hate him. Considering that he adapted the screenplay for this film, I’m not leaning toward the love him camp to be honest.

Like so many horror movies, there is a kernel of an intelligent premise buried within spooky clichés and paper-thin characters. Horror writers really love their monsters, but can’t find central characters that aren’t from stock character central. Dr. Jennifer Pailey (Joanna Going, INVENTING THE ABBOTTS) picks up her sister Lisa (Rose McGowan, TV’s CHARMED) from L.A. to take her to a small town in Colorado so she can get away from the hectic life of the City of Angels. When they arrive in Colorado, the town they visit is deserted or dotted with dead people (or at least parts of dead people). The only living people the sisters run into are Sheriff Bryce Hammond (Ben Affleck, GOOD WILL HUNTING) and his deputies Stu Wargle (Live Schreiber, SCREAM 2) and Steve Shanning (Nicky Katt, SECONDHAND LIONS).


THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 9:48pm

Anthony Mann is a director known for his Westerns. James Stewart was an actor who brought great decency to his characters. When Mann and Stewart teamed up, the actor was allowed to explore his darker side. This film was the last Western the star and director would make together and it was their favorite.

Stewart plays Will Lockhart, a former cavalry captain who has bought three wagons and started a hauling business. He rides into the town of Coronado, where his younger brother was killed by Apaches with repeating rifles. Lockhart decides to take salt from the local salt fields back with him to Laramie, but unbeknownst to him this isn’t free salt and has a run in with Dave Waggoman (Alex Nicol, BLOODY MAMA), the son of Alec Waggoman (Donald Crisp, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY), the richest man in Coronado. With a mission of getting what’s owed him from the Waggomans and to find out who sold the rifles to the Apache, Lockhart sticks around Coronado.


THE LONG GOODBYE (1973) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 8:15pm

Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe returns, but this time the dic is transported to the 1970s. Elliott Gould (MASH) plays the Marlowe character as a cocky mumbling slob and he’s wonderful.

Early one morning his friend Terry Lennox (former pro baseball player Jim Bouton) shows up and says he fought with his wife and needs a ride to Tijuana. When Marlowe gets back to his apartment, the cops are waiting for him and want to know where he took Terry, because Lennox’s wife was found dead. The rest of the film chronicles Marlowe’s meandering path to finding out the truth behind what really happened to Terry and his wife.

Along the way, Eileen Wade (Nina Van Pallandt, AMERICAN GIGOLO) hires Marlowe to locate her booze-hound writer husband Roger (Sterling Hayden, DR. STRANGELOVE). Also working into the plot are gangster Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell, HAVANA) and strange clinic doctor Verringer (Henry Gibson, NASHVILLE).


KANDAHAR (2002) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 8:05pm

Made by Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf before 9/11, the story follows Nafas (Nelofer Pazira), an Afgani-born Canadian journalist, who sneaks into Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban to rescue her crippled sister who has vowed to commit suicide on the first eclipse of the new millennium.

In reality the plot serves as a framework to present vignettes of what life was like under the Taliban rule. However, Nafas’ dogged determination to get to Kandahar and save her sister does create a surprisingly emotional core to the film. As a woman, Nafas has to wear a burqua that covers her entire body and must find men to help her travel across the country.

Her first is a trader, who has Nafas pose as one of his wives. He’s conservative and follows the traditions of the Taliban, but will take Nafas for the right price. In this Afghanistan, anything can be bought and sold because most people are starving.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:57pm

Director Stanley Kramer was a director who never shied away from taking on topical issues in his films. In THE DEFIANT ONES and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, he tackled race, and in INHERIT THE WIND, he tackled evolution. In JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, he addressed the issue of who is to blame for the Nazis and presents a nuanced argument against many people.

Spencer Tracy (ADAM’S RIB) stars as Chief Judge Dan Haywood, who moves to Nuremberg to head up the trial of four Nazi judges, the top being Dr. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY). Heading up the prosecution is Col. Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS), a man who saw the horrors of the concentration camps first hand and makes it a personal crusade to take down as many Nazis as he can. Heading the defense is Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell, JULIA), a brilliant, young attorney, who uses the law as leverage in his defense of evil acts.


THE INNOCENTS (1961) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:46pm

This is one of — if not the best “creepy” children movie I’ve ever seen. Many elements of this '60s production reminded me of THE SHINING. From the strange children to the perfect use of setting to ghostly influences to the excellent use of shot choices, it is hard for me to imagine that this film wasn't an influence on Stanley Kubrick.

Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr, BLACK NARCISSUS) is hired to take care of two children whose uncle has no desire to have anything to do with them. At first, Miss Giddens only has Flora (Pamela Franklin, THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE) to take care of and all seems fairly well. Then she gets word that Miles (Martin Stephens, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) has been expelled from his boarding school. He is an unusual boy, who seems to be the perfect child, but will do randomly strange and creepy things. Aiding Giddens is the house’s longtime maid Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins, OLIVER!). But things really take a turn for the worse when Miss Giddens begins to see the ghosts of the former grounds keeper Quint (Peter Wyngarde, 1980’s FLASH GORDON) and the former governess Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop).



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:35pm

Luis Buñuel’s EXTERMINATING ANGEL was completed in Mexico in 1962, but wasn’t released in the U.S. until August 1967, which was the same year that his most famous film, BELLE DE JOUR, was released. Buñuel is known for his surrealist cinema and EXTERMINATING ANGEL is his most surreal feature. This satire uses absurdity to uncover hypocrisy.

Edmundo Nobile (Enrique Rambal) is a wealthy elite who throws a party for the rich set in town. Buñuel is not worried about character here, but brings archetypical characters to his party. After dinner, the host and his guests move into the sitting room, where no one leaves — literally. Some unexplained force makes the guests unable to walk out of the room. Once you enter the room, you cannot leave. The guests camp out on the floor for the night and try to remain dignified. However, when days turn into weeks, niceties of decorum begin to fade and the “pure bloods” are savagely at each other’s throats.


DIABOLIQUE (1955) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:23pm

This is the kind of film that terms like “nail-biter” and “edge of your seat” were created for. Directed and written by Henri-Georges Clouzot, the film crafts a deviant murder mystery, which puts guilt at the center of the tension. Rumor has it that Alfred Hitchcock missed out on buying the rights to the book this film was based on by mere hours. Cinema isn't missing out on another great film from the master of suspense, because Clouzot's work here rightfully earns him the title of France's Hitchcock.

Christina Delasalle (Véra Clouzot, THE WAGES OF FEAR) is married to Michel (Paul Meurisse), a cruel principal at a private boys’ school that is having an affair with the sexy teacher Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret, SHIP OF FOOLS). Christina knows about the affair and takes sympathy on Nicole when she turns up one morning with a black eye. Eventually, the women decide to murder Michel, ending in them dumping his body in the murky pool at the school. Who will find the body? When will it be found? What questions will be asked when Michel goes missing?


DEAD RINGERS (1988) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 7:13pm

Twins have been a common theme in horror films and macabre master David Cronenberg tackles the topic here. Elliot and Beverly Mantle (Jeremy Irons, A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE) are identical twin gynecologists. Beverly is the shy, scholarly scientist, who developed a revolutionary surgical instrument when he was a student at college. Elliot is a flashy ladies man, who serves as the public face for Beverly’s work.

One day, actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold, THE HOUSE OF YES) comes to see Beverly at his office to see if she can get pregnant. During the examination, Elliot switches places with Beverly and seduces Claire. When Elliot gets bored of Claire, he hands her over to Beverly again. Beverly falls in love with Claire, who is quite disturbed when she finds out about Elliot.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:53pm

As for the classic horror films, the FRANKENSTEIN series is considered by many as the best. I haven’t seen enough of the classic monster films to say from personal experience, but from having seen the first two films in the series I cannot argue with popular opinion.

The original FRANKENSTEIN sticks out in my mind more clearly than DRACULA or THE MUMMY, because it has less of the stagey performing that hurts many films from the 1930s. It also has the strangely engaging central character — Frankenstein’s monster. In BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the same things can be said.

The film is part sequel and part remake of the original. The second film has more of the original Mary Shelley novel in it though. The film actually begins with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester, LASSIE COME HOME) sitting by a fire on a stormy night with her husband Percy (Douglas Walton, MURDER, MY SWEET) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon, NOTORIOUS), who recaps what happened in the first film, which spurs Mary Shelley to tell the real ending of the tale. Considering the first and second film don’t follow the book all that much it seems silly to have Shelley tell the tale, but the brief intro does quickly recap the first film and set up the start of the new film, which takes over where the last film left off.


BLACK NARCISSUS (1948) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:43pm

The filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were early adopters of color in their films. Along with THE RED SHOES, this film is a shining example of how color can play a huge role in a picture when used correctly. The intoxicating eroticism of the Himalayan setting is brought brilliantly to life in rich visual splashes. Color works as a mysterious character that haunts every frame of this masterpiece.

Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr, THE INNOCENTS) is a snobby and arrogant nun, who is assigned her own mission in the Himalayas with a handful or so of other nuns under her, despite her young age. A prince has given the nuns an old palace where a harem was once housed. The prince pays his people to attend the school there and the nuns are afraid to treat the sick in their hospital because of the fear that the natives will rebel against them if the patient ends up dying. British ex-patriot Mr. Dean (David Farrar, GONE TO EARTH) tries to help the nuns, but he butts heads with Sister Clodagh due to her holier than thou disgust for his frivolous lifestyle. However, Mr. Dean’s sexual appeal is not lost on off-kilter nun Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron, 1996’s EMMA).


BAY OF BLOOD (1971) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:15pm

Mario Bava is considered the granddaddy of Italian horror. He was a cinematographer who began directing at age 46. He was always assigned genre films. He is known for his striking visuals, envelope-pushing violence and gore and a distinctive style with off-kilter humor.

This film begins with a fly committing suicide in a lake. Then we move to a highly dramatic scene of Countess Federica Donati (Isa Miranda, THE NIGHT PORTER) rolling her wheelchair to the window on a rainy night staring out at a boathouse in lament. The music swells as she moves back into the room and then suddenly the music is cut off, a noose is thrown around her neck and she is pushed off her wheelchair to hang herself. This shocking first death is only the tip of the iceberg in what surprises lie within the twisted world of this film.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 6:06pm

For me a comedy needs to do two things — 1) establish a world and keep with it and 2) make me laugh. If a comedy can also make me think and care about the characters, then that’s just gravy. ANCHORMAN is just plain lumpy, mashed potatoes, but I liked the taste of it nonetheless.

When ANCHORMAN works, it’s really funny. When it’s doesn’t, it’s dead silence bad. However, the good really outweighs the bad and it moves on so quickly to a new joke that you forget that the one right before really tanked. Sometimes the joke starts out bad and they just go with it until it works. This is where the talent of the performers is highlighted.

Will Ferrell, possibly the most consistently funny guy working in Hollywood today, plays Ron Burgundy — an anchorman for a local San Diego news station, who has made himself a legend in his own mind. The film is set in the 1970s when men ruled the newsroom and sexual harassment was an alien concept. Ron is worshipped by his crew, which includes Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, THE SHAPE OF THINGS), dimwitted weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN) and sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner, A GUY THING). The station head Ed Harken (Fred Willard, BEST IN SHOW) is pressured to add diversity to the newscast and hires ambitious reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, TV’s MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN). Ms. Corningstone must endure endless harassment and ridicule, but she hangs in there, trying to hold off her attraction to Ron.


UNLEASHED (2005) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:57pm

I struggled with this film throughout. At times it works on your emotions successfully, but undercuts those emotions with characters that are inconsistent.

The story follows Danny (Jet Li, HERO), a savage hitman who has been beaten of his humanity by gangster Bart (Bob Hoskins, MONA LISA). Danny wears a collar that makes him docile, but when Bart removes it Danny becomes a raging, unstoppable killer. As the story progresses, Danny ends up meeting and eventually taken in by blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman, MILLION DOLLAR BABY), who has a stepdaughter named Victoria (Kerry Condon, NED KELLY). Sam and Victoria make Danny a part of their unusual family. They also go about teaching Danny to readjust to normal society.


PALINDROMES (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 5:09pm

Director Todd Solondz is a director of films that are for an audience with extremely open minds. He is not afraid to push buttons, take chances or offend. He is also very cynical and sarcastic, which to some is off putting.

PALINDROMES is his most experimental film and the film in which he has taken the most chances. At the beginning, he brings back characters from his first movie WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE and then runs them through the wringer for the entire picture.

The main character of DOLLHOUSE, Dawn Weiner, has committed suicide and her snobby sister has told their young cousin Aviva that she is destined to turn out just like Dawn, a pathetic loser who will be unloved. Aviva’s mother Joyce (Ellen Barkin, THE BIG EASY) reassures her 14-year-old daughter that she will be fine and that her and her father will always love her. At this point Aviva declares that she wants to have lots and lots of babies so that she will always have someone to love. So Aviva hooks up with horny Judah (Robert Agri), the son of a family friend, so she can get pregnant.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:49pm

This independent film came out of the Sundance Film Festival with a lot of praise, winning a grand and a special jury prize. It went on to win several awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Much of the recognition has deservedly been lumped on writer/director/star Miranda July, who previous to making this film worked as a performance artist. Her film could be categorized as a romantic comedy, but that term undermines its dramatic and intellectual depth.

In a world of growing technology, Christine Jesperson (July) finds it harder and harder to really communicate with other people and develop new relationships. She’s working on a museum art piece during her off hours and operates a taxi service for the elderly to make money. One day while taking a client out to buy shoes, she meets recently divorced shoe salesman Richard Swersey (John Hawkes, THE PERFECT STORM), who has a strange philosophical outlook on life that instantly attracts her to him.


LAND OF THE DEAD (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:40pm

Director George A. Romero created our modern image of the zombie as the flesh-eating walking undead. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD are horror classics and DAY OF THE DEAD is very underrated. LAND OF THE DEAD is the beginning in a new cycle of Romero zombie films. For the four films it’s on par with DAY.

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies roam the streets of cities while humans hole themselves up in a small community surrounded by water. Rich people live in a huge apartment complex called Fiddler’s Green while the poor people scrounge the abandoned cities for food and luxuries.

Riley (Simon Baker, THE RING TWO) has created the Dead Reckoning, a mobile fortress that allows the humans to venture out into zombie-infested areas. However, Riley wants to leave the city behind, because he sees how the decks are loaded and doesn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. Cholo (John Leguizamo, MOULIN ROUGE), on the other hand, believes that if he does enough favors for the Fiddler’s Green boss Kaufman (Dennis Hopper, EASY RIDER) that he’ll be able to buy his way into the luxurious high-rise.


KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:30pm

Ridley Scott’s (GLADIATOR) KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is a solidly made historical epic that has a resonance for the modern world. Set in the 1100s, the film deals with an issue that still plagues the world today — ownership of Jerusalem.

In the film, the Christians rule the city and the leper king, Baldwin (Edward Norton, FIGHT CLUB), has carved a peace with the Muslim king Saladin (Ghassan Massoud, in film debut). The film begins with Baron Godfrey (Liam Neeson, BATMAN BEGINS) seeking out his bastard son Balian (Orlando Bloom, ELIZABETHTOWN) to join him in Jerusalem. Balian has just lost his child, which spurred his wife to commit suicide. He is reluctant to go with his estranged father at first, but hopes for spiritual redemption for himself and his wife in the Holy Land.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:17pm

First off, I have read the famed book that inspired this film and I found it disappointing. The film does capture the silly anarchy of the book fairly well, but it still wasn’t all that funny.

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, LOVE ACTUALLY) wakes up one morning to discover that his house has been scheduled for destruction to make way for a throughway and he didn’t know it. But this is the least of his worries, because his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def, BROWN SUGAR), who is really an alien, informs him that the Earth has been scheduled for destruction to make way for an intergalactic throughway. So Ford and Martin hitch a ride on the demolition crew’s spaceship and thus starts their crazy adventures throughout the galaxy.


HIGH TENSION (2005) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:05pm

This French horror film has already become somewhat of a cult classic. Released in Europe in 2003, the gory film recently made the top 50 horror films list conducted by TOTAL FILM magazine.

Marie (Cécile De France, 2004's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS) is traveling with her friend Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco, THE FIFTH ELEMENT) to Alex's parent's house in the country. For a short film, the beginning seems to be padded a bit with a lame scene in a cornfield. As the girls settle in at the farmhouse, we are introduced to the killer (Philippe Nahon, IRREVERSIBLE), who has a fetish for decapitated heads. When the killer arrives at the house, he butchers Alex's family one by one. It's extremely bloody and violent. Marie desperately tries to avoid the killer and save Alex.


DOWNFALL (2004) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:55pm

This film was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film for 2004. It’s the first German film to tackle the topic of the Nazis, chronicling the last days of the Third Reich as a paranoid Adolf Hitler desperately clung to the hope of victory and his sanity.

The film was controversial and a huge box office success in Germany. It was controversial because it attempts to present Hitler as an evil human not just a caricatured monster. Those who have discovered the film know how good it is. On the invaluable movie website, readers currently rank this film as the 56th best film of all time.

Bruno Ganz (WINGS OF DESIRE) is magnificent as the Fuhrer, who is kind and respectful to his loyal servants, but enraged with irrational hatred, racism and anger. Our point of view for the film is Hilter’s secretary Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), who in real life has written a book about her experiences and participated in a documentary called BLIND SPOT right before her death. She claims that she knew nothing of the atrocities the Nazis carried out, but many feel that she must have known something and could not bring herself to admit it.



By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:46pm

All the word about this film centered on the strange performance of Johnny Depp. I liked it and therefore I liked the film. It’s not nearly as good as the original, but it is a thoroughly entertaining re-envisioning of the classic tale.

Charlie (Freddie Highmore, FINDING NEVERLAND) is a good kid (maybe a bit too good). He is part of a loving family. They are poor, but his parents (Helena Bonham Carter, FIGHT CLUB, & Noah Taylor, SHINE) try their best. His Grandpa Joe (David Kelly, WAKING NED DEVINE) has a love for the Wonka Chocolate factory just as much as Charlie does and they get very excited when its announced that Willy Wonka (Depp) will give out five golden tickets allowing five lucky kids and one guardian each to visit the wondrous factory.