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Mini Reviews (May 2001)

Dead and Buried, Dead Connection, Snow Day, Fresh Horses, The Thin Man, The Car

Dead and Buried (May 17/01)

There's a moment in Dead and Buried where you get to see a guy get a needle stabbed into his eye. And if that doesn't tell you everything you needed to know about the movie, I don't know what else to tell you. The film stars Michael Ontkean as a small-town sheriff who begins to come to the realization that everyone in town is a zombie. Folks just passing through wind up executed by a large group of locals who also snap pictures (for posterity, I guess), and later turn up perfectly healthy, working a job in town. The problem with Dead and Buried, aside from the fact that the film isn't particularly scary, is that a pattern quickly emerges: Some poor schmo gets killed by the zombie-residents, the sheriff tries to figure out what happened, and the dead guy re-emerges later on. This happens at least three times, and each time, I swear the sheriff got even more confused. Instead of getting closer to the truth, he winds up further away from it. I suppose had he found out what was going on too quickly, the movie would have just ended. Kudos, though, to the neat twist ending which honestly surprised me, but jeers to the lack of scares. There's some gore, but not enough to really recommend it based solely on that. Dead and Buried isn't awful, but it's not good either.

out of

Dead Connection (May 18/01)

You know, I've got to wonder what an evil bad guy is thinking when he agrees to go mano e mano with the good guy. Doesn't he realize that there's no way he can win? Doesn't he understand that every rule in cheesy b-movie cinema dictates that he die (and usually in a painful way)? The bad guy in Dead Connection apparently has never seen a straight-to-video flick like this one. Michael Madsen stars as (what else?) a burned out detective, while Lisa Bonet stars as the sister of one of the bad guy's victims. Together, they set out to find this guy before he can murder anyone else. This bad guy likes to call a 1-900 number right after he murders someone (though why he does this is never explained) and is usually driving around in a stolen car and staying in hotels under a fake name (usually a famous boxer). Now why it takes Madsen so long to find this guy, particularly since he's using the names of ex-boxers, is beyond me. And why does Madsen keep making movies like this, anyway? I guess he keeps hoping that the next small-budget flick he does will be another Reservoir Dogs, but this ain't it. And what's with his cheesy blonde hairdo? He looks like William Atherton, circa Die Hard 2 (in fact, I thought he was William Atherton in his first scene. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that William Atherton isn't even in the movie). I'd say pass on this one and re-watch Reservoir Dogs or True Romance or anything written by Quentin Tarantino, really. Oh, and keep an eye out for Parker Posey as the first victim of the killer. Even with such a tiny part, Posey still manages to create a character (albeit a whiny and obnoxious one, but I guess that's why she dies first).

out of

Snow Day (May 18/01)

I hate to admit it, but Snow Day isn't that bad. Oh sure, it's incredibly cheesy and predictable throughout, but for such an innocuous, so-called "kiddie" movie, this one's got some bite. The plot, thin as it is, essentially follows one kid as he attempts to get the most beautiful girl in school to date him. Meanwhile, a bunch of other little kids are determined to stretch the snow day out as long as possible and thus must stop the snow plow guy from completing his work. And that's about it. Snow Day runs just shy of an hour and a half, and don't get me wrong, it still feels overlong in certain spots, but you could do a lot worse. Chevy Chase and Chris Elliott (over-the-top, even by Elliott's standards) provide support in key adult roles, while mostly unknowns fill the kid roles. Look, I'm not going to defend this movie - it's aimed squarely at the coveted "tweenie" demographic and makes no apologies for it - but considering what it is and what it could have been (Here on Earth, anyone?), it's not all bad.

out of

Fresh Horses (May 20/01)

Fresh Horses, starring former Brat Pack members Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald, is astonishingly slow and just plain bad. McCarthy stars as a rich kid engaged to marry an equally rich girl, when he meets Ringwald, a trampy, wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl that quickly enchants him. They begin a torrid and illicit affair, break up and get back together several times, all the while receiving scorn from their respective family and friends. I have no beef with any of the performances in Fresh Horses - Ringwald and McCarthy are fine, and it was interesting watching now well-known actors when they were much younger (Ben Stiller, Doug Hutchison and Viggo Mortensen are among the cast) - it's the damn pace of the movie that kills it. So much time is wasted just on shots of McCarthy wandering around Chicago looking forlorn, that eventually you just wish he'd do something already. I suppose this was an attempt to get away from the talkier, John Hughes-esque films he was better known for (and Ringwald especially), but it just doesn't work. Watching Fresh Horses feels like watching a short film expanded to an hour and 45 minutes...but without adding any dialogue.

out of

The Thin Man (May 21/01)

The Thin Man - a much heralded and critically acclaimed film - is certainly worth a look, but it's not quite the classic it's been made out to be. Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy), a couple of drunks, are assigned to discover who murdered an inventor. Nick used to be a famous detective but has since given up the racket after coming into a large amount of money. He is soon cajoled into taking the case by his wife, who is curious about what it takes to solve such a crime. The duo drink and kid each other, all the while staying on top of the whole affair. The Thin Man is generally entertaining, but not much more than that. Perhaps when it was first released, the film was seen as risque (due to the frank way Nick and Nora relate to each other, and their rampant quaffing of anything that contains alcohol), but now it just seems tame. Having said that, Powell and Loy are fantastic. The story is good, too, and features a mystery so complex it makes an average episode of Law and Order look simplistic by comparison.

out of

The Car (May 25/01)

Presumably in an effort to capitalize on Spielberg's success with Duel, along came The Car in the early '80s. But where that one was taut and suspenseful, The Car is just silly and goofy. James Brolin (sporting an exceedingly cheesy looking fu manchu moustache) stars as the sheriff of a small town that soon has to contend with a demonically possessed car that's running people over. After a reasonably good opening featuring two happy-go-lucky bicyclists murdered by the car, the movie immediately begins to sink into mediocrity. The actors all try their darndest (including Ronny Cox, before he played nothing but bad guys in Paul Verhoeven movies), but with a script this silly, it's hard to maintain any sense of horror or suspense. And come on, a car possessed by a demon? Give me a break. The movie would likely have been a lot better had it taken the Duel route of just featuring a ticked-off psycho behind the wheel.

out of

© David Nusair