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Review of the day for the week of March 15, 1999.

Monday:
Rushmore

Rushmore
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Rushmore is a semi-moronic, yet rather diverting film about a fifteen- year- old prep school student named Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman).

Max pulls some ridiculous stunts at his school, Rushmore, and eventually he is expelled. First, however, he tries to romance his teacher, Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) , who is obviously at least ten years his senior. (This part just screams Dawson's Creek.) Additionally, he starts or joins every club he can imagine, which, perhaps, is why his grades could be better. When he attempts to make some huge changes to the school's grounds (namely move the baseball field and install a huge aquarium) it's the last straw. He is kicked out of Rushmore and booted to a public high school.

Later he learns that his friend Herman (Bill Murray), who manages a large company and has loaned Max money in the past, is seeing Ms. Cross. Although they're much more suited for each other in age, Max is madly jealous and sets out to destroy Herman who isn't too bad at defending himself.

Rushmore wasn't as painfully vapid as I expected it to be, and it had some lively scenes. Although I wasn't thrilled with Rushmore, it was just unusual enough to hold my attention, and had a nice pace - one thing after another just kept happening to Max.

If you're into silly high school comedies, this would be one to see.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Tuesday:
The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October
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The Hunt for Red October is a moderately entertaining film starring a reasonably young Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery.

Baldwin plays a CIA analyst asked to help the U.S. and Russian governments sink a super-silent submarine. Equipped with the latest technology, this submarine makes virtually no noise underwater; in other words, it is nearly impossible to detect and would be undeniably useful in a war. Connery is the captain of this ship; he murders his political commisar, making it appear to be an accident. Then, he sets out on a very clever mission to get rid of his crew and defect to the U.S..

Although The Hunt for Red October captured my attention, I wouldn't say it was incredibly fascinating. The plot reminded me of the later film Crimson Tide, which had more apprehension and tension.

A few parts of The Hunt for Red October were almost silly; for example, when Connery explains this brilliant new submarine technology to his crew, he starts sounding like a mad scientist in an old horror movie. (Incidentally, that reminded me of his role in the ridiculous film The Avengers, in which he played an entirely preposterous villain.) His character in The Hunt for Red October is much more serious, of course, and his acting is convincing, as is Baldwin's.

One last thing: I enjoyed Baldwin's murder mystery film Malice much more than Red October, which simply lacked excitement.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Wednesday:
Deep End of the Ocean

Deep End of the Ocean
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My main problem with The Deep End of the Ocean was the same problem I had with the book it was based on: I just don't care much for any of the characters. Also, since I'd previously read the book, I already knew how the story would turn out.

Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer) is, for the most part, a happily married mother of three. Not only does she make the mistake of taking her three small children with her to a high school reunion in Chicago, but she also makes the mistake of leaving her oldest son Vincent in charge of his younger brother, three-year-old Ben, in the crowded hotel lobby. Returning only a few moments later, she discovers Ben is gone.

And he stays gone for the next nine years. Long after Beth and her family have given up hope that Ben will ever be safely returned, he shows up at her door, offering to mow the lawn. As it turns out, he has been living only two blocks away, unaware that he had been kidnapped by the woman he thought to be his mother. Of course, he doesn't recognize Beth, but she immediately recognizes him, unobtrusively snaps several photos (she's a professional photographer), and later calls the police. Soon enough, Ben is back with his natural family, but he doesn't adjust well.

As I stated earlier, I didn't really like these characters, especially Beth - who was too much of a jellyfish. I prefer characters that actually do something, rather than just stand around whining and soaking up pity. Still, all the actors were admirable , especially Pfeiffer, and I had to appreciate the wonderful performances.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Thursday:
Shawshank Redemption

Shawshank Redemption
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The Shawshank Redemption is an eminently engaging film about two imprisoned convicted murderers in the nineteen-fifties.

Andy Dufresne (wonderfully portrayed by Tim Robbins), is innocent, however. Convicted of killing his wife and her lover (a crime for which he clearly had a strong motive), he really "didn't do it". Of course, as his jailbird friend "Red" (equally well- portrayed by Morgan Freeman) puts it, "Everybody in here is innocent." Well, Red is "the only guilty man" in Shawshank Prison. As their friendship develops, Andy learns the ropes of prison.

Meanwhile, the warden (Bob Gunton) decides that Andy, a well-educated former banker could carry out something more useful than laundry. So, he installs Andy as the prison librarian, and later, as his an accountant (he does taxes for all the jail's employees). Andy also assists the warden in laundering money (as he tells Red, "I was always an honest man - I had to come to jail to become a crook!")

All the actors were terrific, and the film is intelligently plotted. Although normally it's hard to find likeable criminals as film characters, Red's personality is strangely genial. Andy's quiet knowledge is also interesting to watch; you always know he's thinking several steps ahead of everyone else around him.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
The Rage: Carrie 2

The Rage: Carrie 2
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Compared to the first Carrie, the second movie was patently more modern, slightly more grisly and violent, and altogether, it was almost as cleverly dexterous.

Carrie's follower, a grungy, stereotypically "nineties" teen named Rachel (Emily Bergl) has inherited the same extraordinarily astounding telekinetic capabilities. Which means that she can also destroy buildings and, consequently, people, with the sheer force of her mind. Naturally, such extreme occurrences happen only about once in a lifetime - usually, at the end of that life, as happened with Carrie.

Sue Snell (Amy Irving), who is not only the current school counselor but also a woman partially responsible for the original disaster with Carrie, now tries to help Rachel. In her opinion, Rachel should be admitted to some bizarre-powers testing facility and studied like a lab rat. Who can blame Rachel for refusing Sue's offer? However, one gets the impression that the unappealing nature of Sue's proposition isn't the only reason Rachel refuses. Implied is a deep-seated psychological need to be normal, to be free of her startling, unasked for, and sometimes frustrating powers.

Meanwhile, her classmates plan a cruel, similar stunt that was pulled on Carrie: they set Rachel up to temporarily believe she is popular, then embarrass her outrageously. This involves secretly video taping her in bed with her boyfriend Jesse (not to his knowledge, as we find out only at the end). Later, they show the tape at a huge party, leading Rachel to believe that Jesse was only using her and doesn't really love her (he does). What follows - stop here if you don't already have a lucid idea of the end and want to be surprised - is a fiery deathtrap inferno much like the first movie. (This one, however, is more elaborately done.) As Carrie went down in her blaze, so does Rachel go down in hers.

The only major flaw of this film is its lack of credibility, which can be explained by saying that the producers attempted to make it too much of a modern teen scream film. The characters, for example, are almost comically ridiculous as someone's misconstrued idea of "realistic teen characters". Some characters are not only far from reality but also one-dimensional, serving as something like living, breathing, stage props. Rachel, Sue, and Jesse, at least, have some emotional depth.

My last gripe: Why couldn't the producers find an appropriate place for a tampon- tossing scene (vintage the first Carrie) in this film?

All said, The Rage: Carrie 2 really wasn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It was captivating, the guilty parties got their due at the end, and the acting was for the most part convincing. I wouldn't be nit-picking it if I didn't find myself constantly comparing it to the original.

My Rating = Three Stars

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