Mini Reviews (April 2001)
Excellent Cadavers, See No Evil, Witness Protection, For Love or Mummy, Blackwater Trail
Excellent Cadavers (April 2/01)
Here's a case of a movie that's well made all around (well acted, well directed, well written, etc), but sucks nevertheless. Chazz Palminteri stars as Falcone, an Italian government official determined to take down organized crime, and F. Murray Abraham is the stool-pigeon that rats on all his mafia friends. Like I said, it's well-made and all, but what's the point? I'm sure that Excellent Cadavers is as accurate as a weekly minutes report, and it's just as exciting. I think the filmmakers forgot a crucial element that must be considered while crafting a motion picture: Make sure it's entertaining! While I have no doubt those close to these real-life people will applaud this movie for its accuracy, I couldn't help but doze off every few minutes. I understood what Falcone was trying to do and I admired it, but it just wasn't worthy of being committed to celluloid. The actors are all good, particularly Palminteri, but if you don't care about what's happening on screen, what's the use? And I particularly disliked the fact that you find out right in the first five minutes that Falcone dies. I suppose it was inevitable given his line of work, but still, couldn't the filmmakers have pretended we couldn't figure it out? Any suspense or rooting for Palminteri completely dies since we know his fate. But if you ever wondered what might happen if you literally stapled your mouth shut, this is definitely the flick for you.
See No Evil
Starring Mia Farrow, See No Evil is about a young woman recently blinded in a horse riding accident who moves to the British countryside to live with her uncles family. All's well and good until one day the Uncle and family are murdered by leather-boot wearing maniac. Of course, since the Farrow character is blind, it's quite a while until she realizes that she's walking about in a house with three dead people laying around. Watching See No Evil, an almost unbearably suspenseful movie, I wondered why filmmakers can't seem to make pictures like this anymore. Sure there was The Blair Witch Project, but that was (seemingly) a fluke. Most "suspense" movies are of the Scream and Urban Legend ilk - most decidedly not suspenseful and filled to the brim with cheap "oh, it was just the family cat" scares. See No Evil is different in that the scares are genuine. While there are no overtly frightening parts, the entire film is shrouded in a sort of haze of dread. We know that those dead bodies are there and we also know that the killer is eventually going to figure out that there's a witness (so to speak), so the suspense lies in what Farrow's going to do about it. See No Evil is incredibly entertaining and worth a look, particularly if you're sick and tired of all these silly Scream clones.
I suppose the idea behind Witness Protection is intriguing enough - what happens to you if you go into the witness protection program? - but the execution is all wrong and downright dull. Tom Sizemore (overacting like never before) stars as a man scheduled to testify against some big-time mob guys, so he and his family are put into the FBI's witness protection program. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio co-stars as his sobbing wife, while Shawn Hatosy plays his rebellious kid. I have no idea whether or not Witness Protection is based on a play, but I would assume it is considering it essentially takes place entirely in the FBI's safe house where the family is preparing for their new lives. All the cliches you could possibly imagine are here. Will the family fight about dad's silly mistakes? Will the kid threaten to run away? Will mom and dad have a fierce fight in which pasta is thrown? (Ok, maybe that's not a cliche, but you'll spot it a mile away.) And will Tom Sizemore yell a lot, way more than is really necessary? But besides the rampant cliches, Witness Protection is just boring. Who wants to watch a bunch of people that seemingly hate each other trapped in a small house for an extended period of time? (Big Brother was a colossal flop, so even on TV this doesn't work.) Some of the touches are a little interesting (such as Sizemore's realization that he'll have to work as a laborer for the rest of his life), but really, who wants to watch a movie that revolves around a family that hates each other and is about to become dirt poor?
For Love or Mummy
Admittedly, I'm really not the right person to be reviewing For Love or Mummy - a movie aimed squarely at the under 10 crowd (with no apologies for it). Starring Bronson Pinchot and a fat guy as an updated version of Laurel and Hardy, For Love or Mummy follows our two bumbling heroes as they attempt to stop a 3000 year-old mummy from taking over the world. F. Murray Abraham (!) is here, too, as the father of the fat guy's love interest. There's not much to say about this, really. If you actually rent this, you'll pretty much get what you expect - lots of physical humor and lame puns. Pinchot is good, reprising his role from that one episode of Perfect Strangers where he and Cousin Larry dreamed that they were Laurel and Hardy. The movie is mercifully short (it's around 80 minutes), so it doesn't really overstay it's welcome. Look, it's not Casablanca or anything, but for what it is, it basically works.
Blackwater Trail casts Judd Nelson as a reporter (I think - it was never really made clear) who travels to Australia for the funeral of an old friend. Said friend supposedly committed suicide, but his perky sister doesn't believe that. She thinks he was murdered, and then gets proof after a disturbing tape pops up with a killer explaining his motives. Turns out there's a bible-thumping maniac on the loose. It's up to Nelson, with the help of the perky sister, to find this killer and stop him. Unfortunately, watching them stop the psycho is about as interesting and exciting as an episode of Suddenly Susan. A pattern emerges after a while - Nelson and perky sister find a disembodied body part, evade clever traps and get the next clue pointing to the next severed arm or whatever. And that's it. Add to that some thoroughly underwhelming visuals, and you've got a seriously boring movie (and here I always thought it was impossible to make a bad serial killer movie. Thanks for proving me wrong, Judd!). The only thing that kept me going was trying to figure out if the redhead in the movie was the same redhead that ran down the street in her underwear in a Jackie Chan movie. It was. Oh, and some mention must be made of the central villain's death, which has to be one of the stupidest ways I've ever seen a bad guy die, and I've seen a lot of stupid cinematic deaths in my life. Ugh.