Scream (1996, Wes Craven), the director’s cut

Poor Matthew Lillard, he was already looking way too old to be a teenager in this one (he was twenty-six). I probably haven’t seen Scream since 2000 or so, sometime before the third one came out. Maybe even further back than that. What I’m trying to say is… I’d actually forgotten how bad Skeet Ulrich is. He’s incredible.

I haven’t been able to see Scream since laserdisc, because there’s an unrated cut that Disney refuses to release stateside. There’s some extra gore and a Freddy Krueger cameo–which is in bad taste if you think about it–nothing to really “enhance” the experience. Still, Nicheflix got the Japanese disc so I rented it (when I was a kid, I had a similar problem with Aliens–my dad had the director’s cut on laser, and I had the theatrical cut VHS, these problems only got worse once I understood letterboxing).

Scream‘s not bad. Wes Craven is a good director (though his cinematographer on Scream couldn’t stop lens distortion, which is kind of embarrassing, if you think about it). The performances run hot and cold. Lillard, for example, is good briefly, not when he’s being loud and obnoxious. He’s such a fantastic, sincere actor, but he never gets roles for anything but the loud prick. Jamie Kennedy–I’d forgotten I even knew who this guy was–is fairly obnoxious and shitty. Courteney Cox, David Arquette, even Rose McGowan, they’re all okay, nothing better. Henry Winkler cameos and is fantastic. The most troubling aspect of Scream isn’t the acting–not even Ulrich–but how indifferent its characters are to death around them. I hadn’t ever thought about it, but a comparison between Scream and O would probably be worthwhile. Scream puts no value on human life….

And no, I’m not going to make a comment about how awful Drew Barrymore was. I could, but I won’t.

Scream does have an important factor, however. One so important, I don’t think I can just dismiss the film. Neve Campbell is an unspeakably wonderful actor. I guess I’d forgotten or it hadn’t occurred to me that my memory of her ability was correct. She’s astoundingly good. I’ve just run through my Blockbuster Online queue and added all her films.

Wait… shit. I had something else. Neve Campbell’s great, Drew Barrymore sucks. Not another Skeet Ulrich joke–what was it….

Nope, I’ve lost it. Damn.

Oh. I remember. Never mind.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Wes Craven; written by Kevin Williamson; director of photography, Mark Irwin; edited by Patrick Lussier; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Bruce Alan Miller; produced by Cary Woods and Cathy Konrad; released by Dimension Films.

Starring David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), Skeet Ulrich (Billy Loomis), Rose McGowan (Tatum Riley), Matthew Lillard (Stuart Macher), Jamie Kennedy (Randy Meeks), Drew Barrymore (Casey Becker), Joseph Whipp (Sheriff Burke), Lawrence Hecht (Neil Prescott) and Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary).


Dave (1993, Ivan Reitman)

I love scenes where actors eat. There’s a great scene in Dave with Sigourney Weaver eating a sandwich. Great stuff.

It occurred to me, while watching the film, that, while it’s still cute, it’s already a relic and it’s only twelve years old. The idea of a person wanting to be President in order to help other people, to help the less fortunate. It isn’t just that Bush is a nitwit, ass clown, he’s also viciously unkind to the very idea of helping people. At the end of Dave, when the pseudo-Capra moments filled me, altruism filled me and I wanted to be President. The sensation lasted a second or two, which is the longest it’s lasted… probably since the last time I saw Dave, or maybe when I saw Waking the Dead or something. I love how movies about politicians have to be set in the past. Except “The West Wing,” but that’s not a movie and I don’t watch it anymore, anyway.

Then reality caught up. While Kevin Kline is great throughout the film, Gary Ross’s screenplay wastes the first half, barely featuring the best parts of the film: Kline and Weaver’s relationship, Kline and Ving Rhames’ relationship, and Kline and Charles Grodin’s relationship. Wow, do I ever miss Charles Grodin. Watching him again almost made me want to try watching The Heartbreak Kid again, then my senses returned. The whole film is perfectly cast, but the front section is too heavy with Frank Langella’s villain. Langella’s great, but it’s not where the film’s meaty. Dave‘s at its best when Weaver’s around. Her scenes let the audience connect with the incredible situation (so do some of Rhames’, but not as many) and let the film approach real poignancy.

If you can believe a film about an American President who doesn’t like murdering brown people, which, historically speaking, isn’t likely.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Ivan Reitman; written by Gary Ross; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Sheldon Kahn; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Lauren Shuler-Donner and Reitman; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Kevin Kline (Dave Kovic/Bill Mitchell), Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Mitchell), Frank Langella (Bob Alexander), Kevin Dunn (Alan Reed), Ving Rhames (Duane Stevensen), Ben Kingsley (Vice President Nance), Charles Grodin (Murray Blum), Faith Prince (Alice), Laura Linney (Randi) and Bonnie Hunt (White House Tour Guide).


Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000, Dominic Sena), the director’s cut

I just watched the recent–let’s see what they’re calling it–director’s cut. A director’s cut without director’s audio commentary. It features nine extra minutes, the most noticeable being a few shots where you see tit. Before DVDs, directors’ cuts meant something (even if they weren’t exactly the director’s cut). Blade Runner and Touch of Evil meant something. Maybe not so much with Touch of Evil, actually. The recent directors’ cuts or extended versions often mean very little. They change the route over the topography, without changing the starting or ending point.

From this particular director, before Gone in Sixty Seconds, I wasn’t expecting much of anything. He made Kalifornia–which is great–then disappeared. After Sixty Seconds, he made Swordfish (a Bruckheimer knock-off, who knew such a thing could exist) and then… disappeared. He’s not a young turk either, he was 51 when he made Gone in Sixty Seconds, which makes sense more for Kalifornia (it had a sure, adult feel to it). Still, I thought this director’s cut might mean something….

Gone in Sixty Seconds has a number of great ingredients. It has a story rife with human conflict–responsible brother saves numb-skulled brother–in addition to the best-ever Bruckheimer cast: Delroy Lindo, Will Patton, Robert Duvall, Vinnie Jones, Chi McBride, Frances Fisher. Giovanni Ribisi is fantastic, back when he got work. Cage holds it all together in one of his “big movie star” roles, never counting the paycheck in his head, as visible in his other Bruckheimer collaborations (The Rock and Con Air). Angelina Jolie is mediocre more often than bad (though I didn’t realize her lips were so big in this one, so I guess the image is punk rock collagen) and the less said about Christopher Ecceleston the better. And for most of the movie, it works.

And I’m not even talking about the multiple false endings. The film, from the opening credits, establishes itself as a family drama. Sure, a big budget, Bruckheimer family drama, but one none the less. Then, all of a sudden, the family drama disappears. If it was replaced by the set pieces, the car thefts and such, I’d understand. But it isn’t. It isn’t even replaced by the Jolie/Cage romance subplot (which doesn’t work–she looks like his kid). It just disappears. Luckily, the film falls back on Delroy Lindo to hold up the rest of it and he does. Except when it relies on Will Patton and Robert Duvall, who are also very good people to depend on.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Dominic Sena; screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, based on the film by H.B. Halicki; director of photography, Paul Cameron; edited by Tom Muldoon and Chris Lebenzon; music by Trevor Rabin; production designer, Jeff Mann; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Mike Stenson; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Nicolas Cage (Memphis Raines), Giovanni Ribisi (Kip Raines), Angelina Jolie (Sara Wayland), T.J. Cross (Mirror Man), William Lee Scott (Toby), Scott Caan (Tumbler), James Duval (Freb), Will Patton (Atley Jackson), Delroy Lindo (Detective Roland Castlebeck), Robert Duvall (Otto Halliwell), Christopher Eccleston (Raymond Calitri), Chi McBride (Donny Astricky), Timothy Olyphant (Detective Drycoff), Grace Zabriskie (Helen Raines) and Master P (Johnny B.).


How to Steal a Million (1966, William Wyler)

I think I might hate ‘cute.’ Or at least the pseudo-realistic ‘cute’ that permeated film through the 1950s and 1960s, when the films became so much about enjoying the actors’ charisma, there was no sense of any reality to the films’ situations and conflicts. In that way, How to Steal a Million is an interesting companion to Sneakers. Sneakers is still a real film, How to Steal a Million is not….

The film’s mildly charming–Audrey Hepburn’s in it, after all–but the first half is too long. The second half, which switches focus to Peter O’Toole is better, but probably only because it contains the heist scene (the heist genre has since learned, when doing ‘cute,’ have a heist at the beginning too, to set high expectations for the final caper). I suppose what’s most wrong with the film is William Wyler. It feels like he’s doing a light comedy and knows it. The film hasn’t got anything to say about… anything. It’s either treading water or paying for scotch. As it comes right after The Collector in his filmography, it almost looks like it has to be scotch money.

I’ve seen the film before, years and years ago, and I remembered it being a lot better. I’d forgotten Wyler directed it, however, which is hardly a good sign. The most stunning thing about the film is probably that Hepburn was thirty-seven when she made it. The only sign of her age might be the eye-shadow… and I suppose it did make me want to watch Wait Until Dark again. Blond-haired, blue-eyed O’Toole leaves no impression….

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by William Wyler; screenplay by Harry Kurnitz, based on a story by George Bradshaw; director of photography, Charles Lang; edited by Robert Swink; music by John Williams, production designer, Alexandre Trauner; produced by Fred Kohlmar; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Audrey Hepburn (Nicole), Peter O’Toole (Simon Dermott), Eli Wallach (Davis Leland), Hugh Griffith (Bonnet), Charles Boyer (DeSolnay), Fernand Gravey (Grammont), and Marcel Dalio (Senor Paravideo).


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