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The Films of Joseph Ruben

The Sister-in-Law

The Pom Pom Girls


Our Winning Season


Dreamscape (August 4/18)

Dreamscape follows psychic Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) as he reluctantly agrees to participate in a program designed to help people suffering from nightmares, as the clairvoyants use their abilities to actually enter the subjects' dreams and assist from within the subconscious - with problems ensuing after a shady government official (Christopher Plummer's Bob Blair) decides to use the technology for nefarious purposes. It's a decidedly out-there premise that is, at the outset, employed to distressingly uneven effect by Joseph Ruben, as the filmmaker, working from a screenplay written with David Loughery and Chuck Russell, delivers a watchable yet hopelessly erratic episodic first half revolving mostly around Alex's dream-based exploits - with the hit-and-miss nature of these interludes certainly contributing heavily to the movie's less-than-consistent atmosphere. (It seems apparent, ultimately, that one or two of Alex's dream-infiltrating escapades could and should have been jettisoned.) There's little doubt, then, that Dreamscape improves immeasurably once Quaid's plucky character stumbles upon Blair's villainous scheme, after which point the picture adopts a far more propulsive feel that's heightened by an ongoing inclusion of compelling sequences - with the climactic stretch, detailing a dream-set battle between Alex and David Patrick Kelly's evil psychic, certainly ensuring that the movie concludes on a fairly ludicrous yet undeniably entertaining note.

out of

The Stepfather

Click here for review.

True Believer

Sleeping with the Enemy (April 19/08)

Though Julia Roberts delivers as charismatic a performance as one might've expected, Sleeping with the Enemy is ultimately undone by a relentless emphasis on obvious and downright laughable elements that'll surely leave even the most ingenuous viewer sporadically rolling their eyes. Roberts stars as Laura Burney, a battered wife who finally decides to leave her almost ridiculously abusive husband (Patrick Bergin's Martin) by faking her own death. Laura quickly (and quietly) relocates to small-town Iowa, where she changes her name and begins seeing a sensitive drama teacher (Kevin Anderson's Ben) - though, of course, it's not long before Martin grows wise to his former wife's activities. There's little doubt that Sleeping with the Enemy's most egregious failing is in the development of Bergin's Martin Burney, as the lack of subtlety with which screenwriter Ronald Bass (working from Nancy Price's novel) has infused the figure proves to be far too insurmountable an obstacle for the film to overcome (ie he is, to paraphrase Mike Myers' So I Married an Axe Murderer character, so evil that you would say he is eeeevil). Joseph Ruben's simplistic directorial choices - ie a trying-on-hats montage set to Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" - only heighten the movie's various problems, although it's admittedly impossible to deny the effectiveness of the movie's suspenseful (albeit entirely predictable) climax. In the end, Sleeping with the Enemy's exceedingly easy-to-follow storyline and cut-and-dried characters ensure that the film remains mindlessly entertaining throughout its brisk running time - yet it goes without saying that the rampantly silly atmosphere becomes awfully tough to take and the movie is finally unlikely to appeal to those above a certain age (ie I can remember thoroughly enjoying this as a teenager).

out of

The Good Son

Money Train

Return to Paradise

The Forgotten

Blindsided (February 2/14)

Blindsided follows sightless photojournalist Sara (Michelle Monaghan) as she's terrorized by a couple of low-level thugs (Barry Sloane's Chad and Michael Keaton's Hollander) in her expansive apartment, with the film, for the most part, detailing the battle of wills that inevitably ensues between all three characters. It's a well-worn, familiar premise that's generally employed to better-than-expected effect by filmmaker Joseph Ruben, as the movie, for the most part, remains quite watchable despite the presence of several dodgy elements - including Sloane's beyond bland performance and an overuse of almost comically low-rent special effects (ie worst use of green screen ever). Ruben's steady directorial hand ensures that the film moves briskly and contains a few well-placed jolts, although it's ultimately clear that Blindsided's most potent weapon is Keaton's typically engrossing turn as the central villain - with the actor's scenery-chewing work elevating the decidedly ho-hum material on an all-too-regular basis. It's clear that the narrative isn't quite dense enough to sustain a full-length running time, however, and the protagonist's increasingly confounding behavior (ie why doesn't she just cooperate?) makes it more and more difficult to actively root for her victory over the invaders. The somewhat anticlimactic finish confirms Blindsided's place as a passable yet far-from-memorable thriller, which is kind of disappointing, to be sure, given the paucity of such movies within the contemporary cinematic landscape.

out of

© David Nusair