Late Summer Reviews

I've been a little lazy, and with my giant Toronto column being slowly born, and the upcoming frenetic release of highly promising films, it's obvious I'm never going to come around to writing full reviews for those films in my to-be-reviewed queue. So without further ado, let me devote a few sentences to each and be done with it.

The Muse [C+]
Viewed August 28, 1999 at Lincoln Square
Mildly, um, amusing; but Brooks' latest is a disappointment. Satirical jibes at Hollywood have become indistinguishable from masturbation, and Andie McDowell reaches new lows of awfulness as Brooks' wife.

+Virus [D]
Viewed August 22, 1999 at the Chateau
It's crap, the kind of film where an over-the-top camp performance from Donald Sutherland is the most entertaining thing about it. Pity, since this could have been a perfect project for Cronenberg if he ever decided to make a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster as a lark.

Mickey Blue Eyes [C-]
Viewed August 21, 1999 at Lincoln Square
The idea is cute on paper (Hugh Grant, everyone's favorite stammering Englishman, gets up to his ears in the Mob), but the execution is perfunctory, wasting a lot of its time on a needlessly complex plot.

The Sixth Sense [B]
Viewed August 15, 1999 at Lincoln Square
Certainly, Sense's twist ending is pure gimmickry, but it's one of the few such things in recent memory that's emotionally satisfying. (It still makes a hash out of the plot, though.) It's also one of the most deliberately paced blockbusters in recent memory (is Willis atoning for the overcaffeinated Armageddon?), which is a pleasant surprise.

Bowfinger [C]
Viewed August 15, 1999 at Lincoln Square
Steve Martin can be a brilliant screenwriter[1], but his talents deserted him here; this is nothing more than a wan modern-day take on Ed Wood. It doesn't help that Martin's Bowfinger is rather unlikable; he doesn't seem to be interested in making movies as much as he is in running a giant con game. And its satire on Scientology is toothless, especially compared to the Darin Morgan scripted episode of Millennium that spoofed L. Ron Hubbard's giant practical joke.
[1]Check out L.A. Story, the finest West Coast variation on Woody Allen's Manhattan, a whimsically surreal valentine to Martin's hometown and the best film of 1991.

Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train [B]
Viewed August 7, 1999 at the Cinema Village
Well-acted account of Parisians heading to the city of Limoges for a friend's funeral that remains riveting despite being frustatingly opaque. When I saw it, I couldn't tell you what every character's relationship to the deceased and each other was, and it's a hopeless cause by now.

Mystery Men [B]
Viewed August 7, 1999 at Union Square
Hit-and-miss spoof of superhero films, but the parts that do work are highly amusing. Wes Studi's Zen-spouting Sphinx is an inspired creation, William H. Macy cements his status as a National Treasure with his deadpan Shoveler, and any film where Michael Bay bites it can't be all bad..

Dick [C+]
Viewed August 6, 1999 at Lincoln Square
Loony satire of Watergate flounders on the fact that Dunst and Williams aren't particularly funny or appealing as the two dumb blondes. Some fine work by the supporting cast (esp. Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch as Woodward and Bernstein) provides some scattered laughs.

The Iron Giant [A-]
Viewed August 1, 1999 at Lincoln Square
Superbly executed variation on E.T. that manages the neat trick of being a live-action film that just happens to be animated. Not nearly as original as its champions claim, and I find the coda mildly irksome, but a superior family film all the same. The wonderful New England fall and winter landscapes are particularly worthy of mention.

The Blair Witch Project [A- (downgraded from A)]
Viewed July 24, 1999 at 84th St.
Less a horror film than a punishingly intense tale of psychological breakdown, The Blair Witch Project is also one of the finest films about the darker side of the filmmaking impulse since Peeping Tom.

Cabaret Balkan [C]
Viewed July 24, 1999 at Lincoln Plaza
Serbs fight. Serbs drink. Serb kills Serb. Repeat, as needed, to make feature film.

Autumn Tale [B+]
Viewed July 11, 1999 at Lincoln Plaza
What in other hands would be an obvious farce becomes a typically charming and sublime character study in Rohmer's. And something about this film just makes want to grab my backpack, hop on a plane, and bum around the French countryside for the rest of the summer.