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Neither the characters nor the script make this movie enthralling. Katie Holmes portrays Leigh Ann, a typical type A personality: she is an incredibly dedicated, driven high school student who works tirelessly on school projects. She would be the best student in school if her history teacher, Mrs. Tingle (Helen Mirren) didn't hate her (Tingle hates everyone, apparently).
When Leigh Ann's friends offer her a cheat sheet for finals, she refuses, but Mrs. Tingle overhears the conversation, finds the sheet in her backpack, and blame falls on Leigh Ann. Desperate to explain herself to Mrs. Tingle, she goes to the teacher's home that evening. (Her two friends accompany her for moral support.)
What follows is a confusing confrontation in which the three teens accidentally injure Mrs. Tingle, rendering her unconscious. The situation looks incriminating for all involved, so they decide to tie Tingle to her bed and hold her hostage, until they can come up with a blackmail scheme.
Although some violence and gore appear in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, it isn't much of a horror or murder mystery movie. (Scream, for example, was far more engrossing.) Also, there really aren't any murders in this movie - I won't give away the end, but I felt very cheated as a viewer. And there is no mystery as to who is doing what exists.
These elements lacking in Teaching Mrs. Tingle are what made the Scream films a success. Teaching Mrs. Tingle might have worked as a drama had the characters been better, but the only one I liked was Mrs. Tingle. (Her nasty little comments, dirty looks, and generally angry nature were wonderfully acted out.) Unfortunately, we don't even find out that much about Tingle, and it's hard to figure out which parts of the stories she tells are true. (Tingle is also apparently a terrific actress.)
The other characters are so boring, stereotypical, or phony that you just don't care about them.
I might also add that this is yet another PG-13 movie that would have been better with more blood, gore, and violence (if appropriately placed and realistically played out). Who wants to see a tame horror movie?
Williamson should go back to making movies that are fun and truly thrilling (I'm still holding out hope for Scream 3).
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Steven Phillips (Albert Brooks) is a filmmaker who is given a humanitarian award for his work. (As he later explains to his young daughter, "A humanitarian is someone who has never won the Oscar.") In fact, despite his recent award, he seems to be washed up - his career is going nowhere, and he's released from his major script-writing deal with a big studio. Desperate for work, he asks an old friend who is now a successful writer, for help. His friend recommends Sarah (Sharon Stone), a woman who gives her job description as "muse". That's right, for a lot of money and free food, room, and services, Sarah "inspires" most of Hollywood's most famous writers and directors. (Cameos by James Cameron, Martin Scorcese, Lorenzo Lamas, and many others are included.)
While unrealistic and rather silly, The Muse was quite hilarious. Steven's sarcastic humor was wonderfully flippant (he has some great one-liners). I also enjoyed the cameos by Hollywood stars (I found it especially amusing when Sarah advised Titanic writer James Cameron "not to go back in the water").
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