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Mini Reviews (December 2001)

The Colony, The Substitute: Failure is not an Option, The Acid House, waydowntown, Dead Ahead

The Colony (December 12/01)

The inherent problem with a movie like The Colony is that it requires the audience to believe that there are people who want to live like prisoners in their own neighborhood. John Ritter stars as a successful security...uh...guy (it's never made entirely clear just what his job is) who moves his family into an exclusive gated community known as "the colony". It seems like a nice enough place on the surface; the people are friendly, it's incredibly safe, and the school system is within the top 2% in the country. But underneath that glossy facade lies a sinister set of rules - you have to wear a special "running suit" if you want to go jogging, your dog's vocal cords will be surgically removed if it barks too much, etc - but by the time Ritter and family find out just what's going on, it's not quite as easy to leave as they might've hoped. The Colony is marginally entertaining, if only in a let's-see-how-predictable-this'll-become sort of way. And it does become just as predictable as one would assume - hmm, wonder if that gigantic pointy statue will wind up impaling someone at some point? - but Ritter is pretty good and the scenery is nice. The only thing that really bugged me was an encrypted disc that the good-with-computers teenage daughter stumbles upon at one point. She runs it through this magical "decoding" program and leaves the computer. The next time we see it, it's seemingly been several days and the thing is still trying to crack the code. And of course, it magically finishes right in front of her. Cheesy.

out of

The Substitute: Failure is not an Option (December 12/01)

Yup, this is the fourth installment in the never-say-die series, The Substitute. Who would have thought a movie starring Tom Berenger would have so much staying power? But surprisingly enough, this episode in the Substitute saga isn't too bad, all things considering. Treat Williams once again reprises the role Berenger originated, and this time, the substitute is assigned to a military base. See, it seems that a racist colonel is determined to bring back "white power" and has assembled a group of rogue cadets to join his little outfit, which he's dubbed "wolverines". Enter Williams. Initially brought in as a history teacher, he quickly hooks up with another friendly officer and the two set out to gather information on the wolverines and kick some neo-Nazi ass. With a running time of less than 90-minutes, The Substitute 4 never really has a chance to become boring. But the only thing that matters with a movie like this is: Is there a lot of brutal violence? And refreshingly, there is. It's becoming harder and harder to catch hardcore action, what with this PC atmosphere. Well, apparently nobody told that to the makers of this movie, because Treat kicks all kinds of ass. He even beats up one guy with two blackboard erasers! Angie Everhart - best known for being hit by a car in the David Caruso suckfest Jade - appears as a love interest and proves that she's actually not a bad actress. Bill Nunn also pops up as a crazy janitor that, of course, turns out not to be so crazy. Definitely worth a rental if you're in the mood for some decent hand-to-hand combat (check out the scene where Williams stabs an assailant in the chest, shoulders, and neck. Harsh!)

out of

The Acid House (December 29/01)

The Acid House consists of three short stories that are thoroughly unpleasant and utterly pointless, and contain no redeemable qualities - unless, of course, you're willing to consider the fact that they eventually end a redeeming quality. As directed by Paul McGuigan, the trio of tales are relentlessly bleak and seem to have been thought up while the screenwriter was in the middle of a particularly brutal acid trip. The first story features a young bloke who's visited by God and turned into a fly. The second follows a man who finds his entire life turned upside down by a vicious new tenant in his building. Finally, the third (and easily the worst - and that's really saying something) involves a newborn baby that switches place with an idiotic stoner. It's been a really long time since I've seen a movie as horribly unentertaining and just plain irritating as The Acid House. Perhaps if there had been, you know, some sort of a point to all these disgustingly vile stories; rather, they all seem to drag on and on until they stumble awkwardly to their respective conclusions without providing any sort of explanation for their very existence. It seems to me the only way any rational person could possible enjoy this garbage that's been labeled a movie, would be to actually get high - and not just any old kind of high, either. The kind of high where you're close to death. What a waste of money, time, resources, and (most importantly) an hour and 45 minutes of my life. If I could give this movie a negative rating, I would.

no stars out of

waydowntown (December 30/01)

waydowntown takes a clever idea and almost ruins it with quirkiness. Four co-workers at a downtown office decide to make a bet to see who can stay indoors the longest. This is indeed possible because their offices are connected to their apartments via a series of outdoor tunnels. In fact, they've got access to almost the entire downtown core through these tunnels. Since virtually the entire movie takes place indoors, either you're willing to go with this claustrophobic concept or you're not. It is genuinely interesting to a certain point and it's something I can relate to (my alma mater, Carleton University, was entirely connected via a series of underground tunnels and I occasionally went days without sniffing fresh air). But writer/director Gary Burns feels compelled to throw in a few ultra-quirky characters (an almost psychopathic florist, a depressed co-worker who keeps stapling motivational slogans to his chest), which seriously undermines the reality of the situation. Or maybe that was the point...

out of

Dead Ahead (December 31/01)

Made for the direct-to-cable market, Dead Ahead is an incredibly lame suspense flick that may as well have come from a book entitled "Paint-By-Numbers Thriller Writing." Four criminals have just robbed a bank and are now on the run. A family is vacationing in the woods. The two groups intersect and a hostage situation is soon underway. The first half hour of the movie contains so much foreshadowing you've just gotta laugh (gee, wonder if mom's bow-and-arrow prowess will come into play later on?) But my favorite instance of this had to be a conversation 'round the campfire in which the youngest son casually mentioned that a friend of his got in trouble for pouring sugar into a lawnmower's engine. Later, when the thieves have stolen a camper, the kid steals some sugar from the kitchenette and (you guessed it) pours it into the gas tank. Did the filmmakers really think we wouldn't understand why he was doing that? Anyway, there's a few good arrows-to-the-chest deaths towards the end, but really, this just sucks. But you've got to admire the tenacity of the ringleader who, with two arrows sticking out of his chest, tries his darndest to hold onto the landing gear of a moving airplane (from which he was to make his escape). Now that's impressive!

out of

© David Nusair