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Review of the day for the week of January 26, 1998.

Monday:
Volcano

Volcano
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If you ask me, Volcano is just another Dante's Peak. Not to say that it isn't interesting - I'm a big fan of "Dante's Peak myself - I just think the movie industry is overdoing it on disaster movies - especially those involving volcanoes.

In case you haven't figured it out, Volcano is about a volcano erupting - in Los Angeles. What struck me as ridiculous was how dumb the characters appeared to be - about seven workers are killed in an underground blast of lava, half of L.A. is taken down by a lava geyser in a large park, and these people still have NO CLUE what's going on? Get real.

Not to mention that the characters contradict themselves every two minutes. Gaby Hoffman plays a thirteen year old who is bitter about her parents divorce and plans to pierce her nose. In the next scene , the same girl who was watching MTV and talking about nose rings is clutching a teddy bear and screaming "Daddy, Daddy!" You'd think that if she's old enough to want her nose pierced , she'd have outgrown sleeping with a teddy bear.

The special effects prove worth it though, if you're a big enough fan of special effects to overlook the movie's discrepancies and obvious lack of depth and insight. At least in Dante's Peak the characters had some depth, and were believeable, if not realistic.

If you're only going to the movies for special effects, grab your Coke and popcorn and head to Volcano. If you're like me, and would appreciate some slightly less dense characters, and more plot, see something else .

My Rating = Two Stars

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Tuesday:
Spice World

Spice World
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Call me a victim of publicity hype, but I loved Spice World", and I'm not a big fan of the Spice Girls!

As you probably know, the Spice Girls are a real life singing group from Britain, who star in a completely fictitious and unrealistic but, nonetheless, entertaining movie about themselves. They travel around England on a huge bus, the interior of which looks like something your imagination might conjure up in a weird dream: ridiculously large shoes lie on the floor, stuffed toys all over the place (they belong to Baby Spice), bright colors splash all over, as do lots of wacky outfits. In one hilarious scene, the Spice Girls stop the bus so they can go to the bathroom in the woods. It turns out they meet space aliens, who came down to earth especially to meet them. Yeah, right!

This movie reaches a crescendo of stupidity formerly reached only by Jim Carrey, and your options are pretty black-and-white: Crack up laughing or risk losing your sanity. I chose the first option, and actually came out of the theatre exhausted from laughing so much!

My Rating = Four Stars

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Wednesday:
Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf
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A very young Michael J. Fox stars in this partly amusing, partly annoying horror comedy called Teen Wolf.

You guessed it, he's the Teen Wolf. As the title suggests he starts itching and scratching and eventually turns into a werewolf on the full moon. Of course, he can turn into a werewolf any other time if he wants to. When he transforms into a werewolf on the basketball court he expects embarassment, but his team loves him. Before he was a lousy player - just like his teammates; as a werewolf, he scores point after point for his team. Suddenly he's the most popular guy in high school.

There is a subplot about his friend, who wants to be his girlfriend, but he has eyes for a more popular girl. Still, it's pretty obvious they're going to end up together by the end of the movie.

Unlike the recent American Werewolf in Paris, this movie lacks the element of suspense that a good plot can give, and lacks good special effects. The wolf costumes are so ridiculously fake, it makes you laugh - and this movie is good for a few more laughs, during some random scenes. However, it's not the howling good time I expected it to be, pardon the pun.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Thursday:
Phantoms

Phantoms
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Although I'm not a Dean Koontz's fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Phantoms, which was based on his book Phantoms.

It's a science-fiction/horror flick, and it's typically disgusting: Two sisters return to the older sister's new home in Snowfield, to find it nearly deserted, except for a couple cops and several extremely gross corpses. Naturally, strange occurrences ensue - radios start playing the old country song "I Fall to Pieces", to accompany the screams when the dead bodies are found. The older sister, a doctor, examines the corpses, but can't determine the cause of death. A former college professor, Timothy Flyte (Peter O'Toole) whose far-fetched ideas got him kicked out of the University, now writes for a tabloid, and the FBI forces him to go to Snowfield. Apparently, they think his crazy theories can explain the disappearance of so many people, and that he can aid the four still left alive in Snowfield. A team of top scientists is also brought in.

I was impressed by the originality of the script, and the acting. The special effects are stunning - really stunning; these grotesque corpses pop up right when you least expect it! - and I was fascinated.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Friday:
What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
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At the suggestion of an Email buddy and fellow movie fan, I rented What's Eating Gilbert Grape? to watch a much younger Leonardo DiCaprio's performance. Despite his young age, it was every bit as convincing as his more recent roles in Titanic and Marvin's Room.

DiCaprio isn't the main star in this movie - he plays Arnie, the retarded younger brother of - who else- Gilbert Grape, our sulky main character. Gilbert's father died several years earlier and his extremely overweight mother hasn't left the house since. It's basically up to Gilbert to put food on the table for Arnie, and their two sisters, so he works bagging groceries and making deliveries. This enables him to keep up a relationship with an older, married woman who calls for a food delivery when her husband is gone and she wants to see Gilbert. Meanwhile, Gilbert becomes interested in a girl his own age who is just passing through their small town. While juggling these two relationships, and his job, Gilbert has to occasionally call Arnie down from the water tower that Arnie is always attempting to climb.

This movie reminds me a little of Ulee's Gold and As Good as it Gets, in that it employs no special effects, little green men, or other hype to be entertaining; it's just a down-to-earth, engaging story. Although it gets a bit slow in a few places, it's hardly noticeable enough to ruin the movie which remains highly entertaining.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Saturday:
Hard Rain

Hard Rain
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Hard Rain is a lovely tale of how amazingly corrupt even the most seemingly honest people can become when money is involved.

It starts with Charlie (Ed Asner), the security guard of an armored bank vehicle (carrying millions, of course), who makes a deal with some friends. They will hijack his van, get rid of his partner, and split the money with him. Incidentally, they plan this on the day of a raging storm and flood, and, distracted by the rain, accidentally shoot Charlie. (The audience is expected to believe it was accidental, but considering the ruthlessness of these characters, I find this quite unrealistic.)

Charlie's partner, Tom (Christian Slater) leaves with the money - to save his life or so he can keep it himself? Good question, but the thieves whose ringleader Jim (Morgan Freeman) doesn't need the answer to that question as urgently as the answer to this one: Where did he hide it? They're off in a mad rush, and some completely unbelievable action sequences occur - in a local school. Later, local police officers and the sheriff become involved, and decide they want a piece of the action, too. You almost expect a priest to show up and ask that he be cut into the deal too!

You're supposed to be distracted from this overdone display of greed and corruption by the disaster element of the flood, but this fails to work. A few perilous life-death situations are briefly diverting, but you know the hero is always going to survive anyway, so even this fails to save the movie.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Sunday:
Get Shorty

Get Shorty
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Danny Devito is perhaps not the best actor in the world, but John Travolta's definitely up there, and he makes Get Shorty enjoyable, with help from Rene Russo and a rather stale but convincing Gene Hackman.

Devito has some marvelous scenes as an overly egotistical actor (the Shorty referred to in the title). Travolta, who excels at playing bad guys, is Chili Palmer, a mobster turned movie producer. Karen Flores (Rene Russo) portrays an actress who hopes to help co-produce his film, and possibly act in it as well.

This is a little confusing, since this is the plot of a movie itself, but that makes it interesting. (Unfortunately, I caught the tail end of this movie long before I watched the whole thing, so I knew the surprise ending.) Despite this mistake on my part, it was still satisfying to watch Travolta crack one-liners like no one else can, and Russo and Devito snap some snappy lines too. Though confusing, the plot is quite original, for a mafia movie, and this remains a great movie rental.

My Rating = Three Stars

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