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The Season's Over, The Fall Has Arrived!

An Aisle Seat Entry

By Andy Dursin

September usually starts off slow, just as it did last week when Miramax released OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE and Morgan Creek countered with CHILL FACTOR -- a pair of underachievers that fared poorly at the box-office over the weekend.

Things don't promise to improve much when STIGMATA opens on Friday, a movie that has all the makings of a bomb: it's from MGM, stars Patricia Arquette, has a script by a writer whose main previous credit is the Tom Hanks made-for-TV campfest MAZES AND MONSTERS, and direction by a guy whose last (and only) major release is the Disney kid-comedy BLANK CHECK. Okay, so I'll hold off judgment until I see it (someday), but man, those trailers are enough to keep me from spending my $8! Naturally the film's subject matter has already "triggered the storm of controversy" by daring to attack the Catholic Church (someone must have had a bad experience in CCD class), but something tells me the studio secretly wants the publicity since it's the only way this movie will probably attract any ink that doesn't explicitly state that it's another turkey from a floundering studio and no-name filmmakers.

The rest of the month features semi-interesting cinematic fare such as Kevin Costner's third baseball movie, FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (with the well-worn plot thread of a guy who dates a single woman with a precocious kid), the George Clooney/Marky Mark/Ice Cube Gulf War drama-edy THREE KINGS, and the Second Annual Autumn Ashley Judd-in-peril thriller, DOUBLE JEOPARDY, co-starring Tommy Lee Jones.

Thankfully there will plenty of exciting DVDs on the horizon to compensate for some potentially less-than- stellar theatrical releases, and we'll be sure to chronicle all of them as we dive deeper into the Fall. Remember to send all comments off to dursina@att.net and we'll see you in a few weeks for the Second Anniversary, Season Premiere of The Aisle Seat here on FSM online!

(QUICK PERSONAL NOTE: If Randy from Sony could email me again with his email address, because the one you sent material from is invalid!)


In Theatres

OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE (**): Rhode Islanders Michael Corrente and Peter and Bobby Farrelly teamed to make this disjointed and only sporadically entertaining coming-of-age tale, set in a working class neighborhood of Pawtucket, RI during the mid '70s.

Bad boy Shawn Hatosy is sent off to a Cornwall, Connecticut boarding school (actually the University of Rhode Island campus, none too subtly disguised) after single dad Alec Baldwin decides his teen son is wasting his life away with his pot-smoking pals. Like every Teen Movie, Hatosy quickly uncovers every clichÈ of this genre in the book -- the obnoxious dorm monitor, the sweet young girl who changes his attitude, and learning to get along with his dad -- while director Corrente (FEDERAL HILL, AMERICAN BUFFALO) tries to mix sweet sentimentality in with typical Farrelly Brothers excrement and bodily fluid jokes.

OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE, based on Peter Farrelly's reportedly more caustic book, is an episodic film where some moments predictably fare better than others. The boarding school sequences are routine in every respect, while the scenes involving the grizzly Baldwin and his band of friends are more amusing and could have possibly worked as the central focus in another, different picture. Baldwin gives one of his better performances of late, but the trouble is that his scenes are sandwiched between a movie that feels as if it had been very much assembled in post-production.

It's one of those films where great dramatic moments are played out in music montages, and supporting characters come and go without any dramatic pay-off. Some of the performances from the younger cast leave a bit to be desired (indeed, two zonked-out jocks I was in high school with have SPEAKING parts!), and the voice-over narration and tacked-on ending -- though apparently far better than the original finale -- only shows how much the movie's focus wanders aimlessly before all is said and done.

Despite some occasional moments of dramatic effectiveness, then, OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE is a movie that will likely be appreciated only inside the southern New England area for its locating filming, and for die-hard fans (and relatives) of the Farrelly Brothers and Corrente at that. (R, 96 mins)


THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE (No Stars): I feel bad for Johnny Depp, because he's talented. I feel terrible for Charlize Theron, because she's hot. I feel sympathy for composer George S.Clinton, because he wrote a good score and he's a nice guy.

But all of these things cannot make me feel anything but utter contempt for THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE, which after having sat through every painful second of it, has to be one of the prime candidates for Worst Late Summer Movie of the Millennium.

How bad is this movie? Try unpleasant enough that I started counting the number of surround speakers equipped on the wall of my local multiplex.

Theron plays the title character, of course, whose husband (Depp) travels into outer space and returns under a cloud of suspicion. NASA advisor Joe Morton knows something's up once he sees the medical tests, but once Morton is let go and Depp moves with Theron to New York to work on some never-quite-explained aerospace project, Theron is all by herself, hearing noises and suspecting that something isn't right with Depp and the twins she's carrying.

Writer-director Rand Ravich obviously attempted here to make a psychological horror film like ROSEMARY'S BABY with a sci-fi twist, but he's ultimately undone by a script with unappealing characters, gaping plot holes that never elaborate upon the alien scenario (what's up with the whole radio- wave thing, and the project Depp is working on?) or explain much of anything (like the groaner of an ending), and a deadening pace that often grinds the movie down to the speed of slow-motion.

Theron gets to cry and performs an embarrassing dance sequence, while Depp's one-note spaceman is so subdued that you can't tell any difference from the man who leaves for the great beyond and the apparently- extraterrestrial one who returns. Allen Daviau of E.T. shot the movie, but aside from that there's no relation to the Spielberg classic.

Indeed, THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE is in a galaxy all its own -- one that's far, far, far away from anything resembling a good movie. (R, 107 mins)


DVD Update

My review of Universal's upcoming THE MUMMY DVD will appear in the next LASERPHILE in the September FSM, but just a bit of warning in case you missed it -- the DVD does not contain Jerry Goldsmith's isolated score during the film. Instead, the score is included only as an unadvertised extra in the "Langauges" menu screen (where you cannot unfortunately fast-forward through tracks; you're forced to sit there and play it all the way through).

NEXT TIME: More reviews and comments, so send in yours to me at dursina@att.net and we'll catch you next time!


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