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Review of the day for the week of October 20, 1997.

Monday:
Ransom

Ransom
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If you were a rich tycoon who dishonestly acquired most of your money but still had something of a conscience, and your young son was kidnapped by a jealous cop, would you pay two million dollars to get him back? And what if you discovered, that even if you pay, the kidnappers still might not let your kid go? Would you risk having your son killed if you weren't sure your harebrained plan to get him back would work? And would you go against your wife and even the FBI's advice to make it work? In Ransom, the excellent Mel Gibson picture, Tom Mullen (Gibson) is faced with just that decision.

Gibson's acting is terrific, and the plot is catching enough, but Mullen's morals fall a little flat with me. When you discover that he paid off blackmailers with millions of dollars to save his airline, but won't part with a measly two million to save his son - despite his protests that he'd pay more than that if he thought it would really save his son - you start to wonder if this guy doesn't deserve what he's getting. Even though he seems genuinely concerned about his son's welfare, let's not forget that he was in on some crooked deals. It's impossible to pity a criminal who's on the same level - almost - as his son's kidnappers.

Mullen's scheme is a crazily concocted, a risky proposition that you can't expect to work. However, I must admit my eyes were glued to the screen when he undertook his mission and the scriptwriters succeeded in keeping me in suspense. Mullen may lack good morals, but this movie raked in the millions, since Ransom was entertaining enough to overshadow most other films unfortunate enough to share the box office with it. If you missed it in theaters, be sure to rent the video.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Tuesday:
I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last Summer
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I Know What You Did Last Summer is a not - so - scary horror film that's only slightly better than the book it was based upon, which isn't saying a lot. The book, I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan was too slow and mild for a horror story; the movie, which deviated quite a bit from the book, was excessively violent and dragged out a sluggish plot.

The movie opens with five minutes of ocean footage, not a human being in sight, and annoyingly loud grunge music pounding in the background. When I started to wonder if this film was a nature channel documentary or a gripping horror movie, one human being became visible, sitting on the edge of a cliff and getting sloshed. A few long minutes later, a group of four partying teens, (one teen is quite obviously drunk) leaves the nearby beach and they tear down the highway at breakneck speed. The man standing by the side of the road, steps out directly into their path - whoopsie! He's dead! Afraid they'll be charged with manslaughter, the four teens resolve not to report the accident, opting instead to dump his body in the ocean. Of course, he wakes up right before they dump him, but by then they're so freaked out, they force him under anyway - now it's really murder!

One year later, teenager Julie James, receives a letter stating: "I know what you did last summer". Oh dear, they should've been a little more discreet. Later, her three friends are targeted too: Helen the beauty queen has her beautiful hair shorn off while she sleeps; Barry is run over and almost killed; and Ray also receives a letter. Did I mention that he is also in love with Julie, who doesn't share his sentiment? Can't have a movie without a romance, can you?

This all boils down to the obvious question: Who knows? Who cares? While some scenes may entertain those who frighten easily (and enjoy it) I found the suspense wearisome. None of the so-called "suspense" scenes put me on the edge of my seat, although a few were rather amusing in their sheer lack of originality.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Wednesday:
Love at First Bite

Love at First Bite
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Some of the best comedies are disguised as horror movies. This one, Dracula: Love at First Bite is a prime example.

After existing "undead" for centuries, Dracula is evicted from his mansion in Transylvania. Subsequently, Dracula joined by his trusty servant, Renfield, journeys to modern-day America (covered with 1970's automobiles, no less) in search of Dracula's long lost love, Cindy, who is presently reincarnated as a New York model. In America he runs into many obstacles. First, he must avoid the sun as usual or risk turning to ash; second, he must steal Cindy away from her on-again, off-again, psychiatrist boyfriend (she's always cheating on him anyway). Not to mention that Dracula's coffin accidentally gets mixed up with someone else's coffin and he winds up in a church, being eulogized. Right when the preacher says, "When you're dead, nothing brings you back," Dracula opens his coffin and sits up, naturally causing pandemonium in the church.

It's this sort of bizarre, but harmless, humor meandering throughout the movie which makes Dracula: Love at First Bite a most engaging PG film for all ages.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Thursday:
Four Weddings and a Funeral

Four Weddings and a Funeral
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In Four Weddings and a Funeral attractive, and young, Charles (Hugh Grant) meets Carrie at a wedding and keeps running into her afterwards, and falls in love with her. He is brutally disappointed when she plans to get married - to someone else - and eventually does so. Here's where the plot starts to drag. It took forever for her to get married and break Charles' heart (not that Hugh Grant was hard to look at during this time), but they could have given the moviegoer a break and speeded things up a bit.

Eventually, at the altar to his own marriage to someone else besides Carrie, Charles backs out, changes his mind and ends up with-you-know-who. The movie was amusing at times, but too sluggish at other times to really make it enjoyable.

Hugh Grant did a marvelous performance as Charles, the most sought after male around, and carried the film. Unfortunately , the plot was too weak for even the best of performances to save this movie.

My Rating = Two Stars

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Friday:
Devil's Advocate

Devil's Advocate
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Keanu Reeves' latest endeavor, costarring with Al Pacino (as the devil himself), is a fascinating film.

Reeves' character, Kevin, a redneck lawyer from Florida, moves to New York with his wife Mary Anne. Both are about completely out of place in New York, and Mary Anne grows increasingly uncomfortable in their new apartment. Meanwhile, Kevin becomes more and more caught up in his work, and his boss, Milton, becomes less baffling and more evidently Satan.

As if you couldn't tell just from the title.

The end is also rather apparent almost from the beginning; still, the acting and special effects make it worth your while. In one scene that's just dripping drama, Mary Anne, who's suffered a nervous breakdown, has a screaming fit in the mental ward, then slits her throat. Her acting is almost better than Pacino's or Reeves'.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Saturday:
Playing God

Playing God
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If you're planning on having an operation soon, skip Playing God, which chronicles the adventures of Eugene, an ex-doctor who lost his license for losing a patient while stoned. Depressed and still hooked on drugs, he walks around with that "just living to die" look on his face. While in a bar picking up some illegal amphetamines, he witnesses a shooting and saves the victim's life. It just so happens that the victim was a friend of mobster Raymond Blossom, so then Raymond feels indebted to Eugene. To repay Eugene, he gives him ten thousand dollars - and his old job back. Eugene now treats people who are unable to check into a hospital for personal reasons - if identified, they'd be sent to jail. Meanwhile, Eugene falls for Raymond's girlfriend, Claire - a bad idea.

Also, skip this movie if you're squeamish - there are several gruesome scenes with lots of blood, guts, and incisions. At one point, a gusher of blood erupts from a body in such a perfect stream it's blatantly obvious that it's fake.

The movie was well acted by Duchovney and his co-stars; unfortunately, the special effects people didn't do their part in making the shoot-outs and bloody bodies look realistic. However, the plot and acting make up for that and I'd still highly recommend it.

My Rating = Four Stars

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Sunday:
Up Close and Personal

Up Close and Personal
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Up Close and Personal is a spellbinding film that rates high on my list of "terrific movies". Actress Michelle Pfeiffer portrays Sallyanne, an inexperienced young woman who goes to work at a small Miami newscenter, and soon falls in love with her boss, Warren Justice, portrayed by Robert Redford. Now Redford, I thought, looked good - really good, but he spent more time during the film shooting off sarcastic remarks than serious acting.

Sallyanne's new name suddenly becomes Tally Atwater when she steps up from being a desk clerk to a weather-girl. This promotion to weather-girl involves a funny before-air scene with Sallyanne crouched on the bathroom floor, barfing into the toilet. No matter. Warren Justice simply throws open the "Ladies" room door, and drags Sallyanne out in front of the cameras. Uninformed of her new name, Sallyanne looks dumbstruck when the anchorman introduces Tally Atwater.

Although she manages to say her lines, she is obviously not idyllic for the job as weather-girl. Warren makes Tally a reporter, and she does much better. Tally climbs her way to-the-top, leaving the Miami station for a much larger newscenter. Will she become the big celebrity of her dreams?

I thought Michelle Pfeiffer was perfect for the part of rising anchorperson - but I would have preferred her playing opposite of a much younger star - like Tom Hanks, or Hugh Grant.

However, it's still a marvelous movie, and much fun to see.

My Rating = Four Stars

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