The End of "Days"
Plus Reader Comments!
An Aisle Seat Entry by Andy Dursin
TOY STORY 2, to nobody's surprise, dominated the weekend box-office
while Arnold Schwarzenegger's END OF DAYS premiered to less than stellar
financial receipts. Surprised? Perhaps, but with bad reviews and a market
saturated with horror flicks, it could be that this disappointing demonic
thriller came to theaters too little, too late.
A look at END OF DAYS follows below, along with some reader comments
on SLEEPY HOLLOW and 007. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving -- remember
to send in your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
if you feel like writing an angry (or enlightened) email.
END OF DAYS (**): I could start this review about a dozen different
ways, but let me first say to anyone out there who is looking for a serious,
supernatural thriller, do anything except see END OF DAYS. Indeed, there
may be more troubling subtext in TOY STORY 2 for all I know (I didn't get
a chance to see it yet), but it isn't in this film.
On the other hand, if you are an aficionado of films so bad that they
become unintentionally funny, you may do a lot worse than to feast on Thanksgiving
leftovers like this "what where they THINKING?" overproduced
spectacle, a most uncertain marriage of THE OMEN, THE EXORCIST and COMMANDO,
with Arnold trying to valiantly take one for the team and single-handedly
right the ship.
Needless to say, Schwarzenegger would have been better off staying in
port, or at least pulling out before the script was re-written a dozen
times. If nothing else, his appearances on everything from the UPN's wrestling
program to ABC's daytime gal gabfest "The View" should have sent
out an alarm to any movie- goer that END OF DAYS was going to be one of
those hilarious bombs that will undoubtedly be talked about by Hollywood
insiders for years to come.
The plot has Satan possessing the body of a Wall Street stockbroker
(Gabriel Byrne, who figured to at least improve his genre standing here
after last fall's STIGMATA) and coming to New York to impregnate a confused
young woman (an equally confused performance by Robin Tunney) who has been
unknowingly groomed to carry Satan's devilish offspring.
The catch is that he has until January 1st at Midnight to do his dirty
deed, and standing in his way is security guard Arnold, still grieving
over the loss of his wife and child. So upset is he, in fact, that he makes
a breakfast of coffee and left-over pizza in the blender in what turns
out to be just one of the movie's many humorous sequences (though it's
one of the few intentional ones).
Arnold ends up guarding Byrne at the beginning of the film (though why
and how we're never told; must have been left on the cutting room floor)
and stops a priest from assassinating the poor chap in one of director
Peter Hyams' badly edited action sequences.
If the demonic angle reminds you of THE EXORCIST, the religious angle
and biblical prophecies in Andrew W. Marlowe's screenplay will almost certainly
make you recall THE OMEN, with Rod Steiger as a good Catholic priest trying
to stop a collection of renegade men of the cloth from killing the innocent
Tunney, even though she's set to bear the Anti-Christ.
However, this is no ordinary supernatural thriller. Indeed, this is
one of those ridiculous movies where Satan is able to blow up buildings,
control a mob of converted zombies, and seduce a gaggle of young women,
but ask him to simply track down Tunney's whereabouts and Arnold throws
him out a 20 story window. If you don't define the rules in a supernatural
thriller, you're clearly inviting trouble, which is exactly the trap that
Marlowe and Hyams fall into and never climb out of.
In fact, when British character actress Miriam Margoyles (in the Billie
Whitelaw part from THE OMEN) has as many super powers as Satan does, it
stands to reason that there are going to be more chuckles than screams
in the audience.
Turns out the fight between Margoyles and Arnold is just one of the
many unintended giggles caused by the film. For sheer excess, the subway
car chase with Arnold and Tunney running from Byrne was the biggest laugh
I've had at the movies since SOUTH PARK: as sad as it is to say, you simply
don't get to see Satan being blown apart in an exploding subway car these
days. Throw in a burning Kevin Pollak and you have all the ingredients
for a big slice of Thanksgiving movie turkey.
There are gaps in the story which defy logic, from disappearing supporting
parts to "character development" moments which seem to have been
cut down from pre-release editing (it's one of those movies where we're
never told Arnold's character name, but Tunney starts referring to him
as "Jericho" even though she hardly even knows him!). You'd think
that Marlowe's script would discuss how Satan was prevented from carrying
out his mission 1,000 years ago (this is like a regular, thousand-year
event for the guy), or what happened to characters Steiger (who looks at
one point like he's going to patch up Arnold and train him a la Burgess
Meredith in ROCKY) and Udo Kier, but this clearly isn't a movie that will
provide any answers.
Director Hyams came in and replaced an unknown German director a week
into production, and his directorial take is at odds with the material
as the disparity in the film's genres turns out to be. After sitting through
END OF DAYS, one is left thinking that there had to have been a better
way to combine supernatural terror with Schwarzenegger action. For instance,
instead of having Gabriel Byrne playing the Devil, why not Jean Claude
Van Damme as an ass-kicking emissary of Old Scratch? Why not turn the whole
movie upside down, ditch the OMEN-like prophecies, and turn it into a genuine,
"End of the Millennium" actionfest?
Certainly that would have worked better than this mismash, which also
includes a silly special effects ending and a formulaic John Debney score
that rips off James Newton Howard's THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE with its melancholic
boy soprano. However, END OF DAYS certainly provides enough entertainment
for those knowing what KIND of fun it provides, and in terms of big-studio
bombs that fail to live up to expectations, at least it's a merrier mishap
than WILD WILD WEST and a sure-fire camp classic for certain viewers in
the years to come. (R, 120 mins., ** score by Debney; hey, where ARE all
the songs that were supposed to be on the soundtrack?).
Aisle Seat Reader Bag: Disagreements, Agreements, and
no Consensus Formed
>From Marc Harwood:
I'm in complete agreement with you about Sleepy Hollow. As a devout
lover of the Hammer films I was overwelmed. This is pure gothic horror
at its best. I will be posting my review of Danny Elfman's score on my
web site: Cinema Concerto - http://members.aol.com/marcgothic
for December. I hope you'll check it out.
>From Jeff Heise:
It was with a great deal of amusement that I read your review of
Tim Burton's latest cinematic opus, SLEEPY HOLLOW. While I agree with your
view on Depp's performance (his best since SCISSORHANDS) and the look of
the film, to call it Burton's best film is way off the mark-in fact, if
it wasn't for the above mentioned pluses, I would rank it with MARS ATTACKS!
as his worst film. I agree that the secondary characters are somewhat less
than that, but I thought Ricci was wasted and had very little to do with
her part. I could have done with less actual beheadings and more with suggested
ones (do we really need to see all but one of the decapitations graphically
shown?), although the disposal of one of the male characters (getting bisected
by the horseman) was, thankfully, done in long-shot. I really could have
done with less graphic close-ups of the headless bodies (one time would
be enough) and the skewering of one head by the horseman as he acquires
it could have been handled off-screen as far as I'm concerned. The entire
plot mechanations of why the horseman is brought back approached MISSION:
IMPOSSIBLE proportions, and I really would have liked a scene where Depp
explains to his superiors in NYC the whole goings-on in Sleepy Hollow when
he returns. As for the score, I consider it to be one of Elfman's most
dreary-a lot of raging wind, bluster and nonsense. I do not recall one
memorable theme or motif, and if I didn't recognize some of his trademark
touches (the choir lifted from sections of SCISSORHANDS), I would have
thought that this was either James Horner with the dt's or another classic
from the composer of the score to ALIEN RESURRECTION (thankfully, I cannot
remember his name). Up to this point, I had never heard a score from Elfman
that I did not at least admire, but SLEEPY HOLLOW changes all that. I would
give the film **1/2, and that is a stretch. Your review of the Bond film
was right on the mark, although I did like John Cleese' addition to the
cast, but God! I hate those elbow-in-the-ribs tag lines. I thought the
ones in the Roger Moore films were bad, but this one. .
Jeff, I respectfully disagree with you about Elfman's score -- I thought
it was one of his best, and thought it had several memorable motifs that
have, at least for me, been missing from some of his more recent work.
The main theme was quite lovely and there were several individual cues
that I thought were terrific (like the carriage chase). It also makes for
a terrific album, too.
For me, an Elfman score that I would consider to be dreary and unmemorable
was THE FRIGHTENERS, which had no themes to speak of and was filled with
bombastic fragments of thematic material -- but nothing for listeners to
I do, however, completely agree with you about Bond, which several readers
totally disagreed with me about. Here's one of them:
>From Brian Martell:
I usually with you, and enjoy your reviews, and I'm on side with
SLEEPY HOLLOW, but, man, you are out to lunch with the Bond review. Oh
well, the exception proves the rule.
As a James Bond fan (I own all the films on laserdisc and/or DVD), I
have been insulted with the Pierce Brosnan films, not so much because of
Brosnan himself (I think he'd make a fine 007 with the right script), but
because all three of his 007 flicks have had an obvious, action-oriented
slant that has catered specifically to American audiences.
It's no surprise that GOLDENEYE, TOMORROW NEVER DIES, and THE WORLD
IS NOT ENOUGH have performed so well in the United States: it's because
the filmmakers have gone with a sub-Joel Silver approach, eschewing character
development and focusing on silly action set pieces that lack the panache
of a good Silver production, never mind a classic 007 film (has anything
in these three films even come close to beating LETHAL WEAPON or DIE HARD?).
GOLDENEYE had badly directed action scenes (like the tank chase in St.Petersburg),
TOMORROW NEVER DIES had a few poorly edited set pieces (the motorcycle
chase and the confusing climax in the submarine hanger), and WORLD IS NOT
ENOUGH has several sequences that cannot compare in any regard to the original
If you're going to say that Bond is about more than action, you're absolutely,
100% right. But that's what the focus has been on in the Brosnan films:
more explosions, louder music, more action. All of that, unfortunately,
has come at the expense of good dialogue, atmosphere, and deliberate pacing
-- that is to say, the distinctive MOOD of a Bond film. Sequences where
Bond investigates shady doings by SPECTRE and meets supporting players
that are peripheral and perhaps not integral to the story, but add to the
depth and dimension of a James Bond film. Scenes that establish locations
exotic, near and far, and give each Bond movie a distinctive setting (is
anyone going to remember where THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH is even set? Mention
YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and you remember Japan. Say THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and
you recall the Egyptian sequences. Think of WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and...?)
It hasn't been there in any of the Brosnan pictures: they're like pale
imitations of American action films that happen to star James Bond. But
since they're making more money domestically than any of their predecessors,
you can count on the current formula not changing an inch anytime soon.
Please can you help! I've just seen the trailer to a new movie "Mission
to Mars" which is due for release in May 2000 and the music is driving
me crazy!!! I have heard it before but just cannot remember what it is
called or who the composer is....please put my mind to rest - any ideas?
I haven't seen the trailer, so I can't comment. Can anyone help?
By the way, the silliest trailer I've seen in recent months is for the
long-delayed, re-shot MGM sci-fi thriller SUPERNOVA. Sporting Three Dog
Night's "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)," the ad makes this sure-to-be-bomb
look like it's as much a comedy as it as a supposed sci-fi thriller! (And
poor Robin Tunney, she's in this one too). Alas, there was no credit listing
so I don't know if Walter Hill's name remains attached as Director, or
if Francis Ford Coppola will take an Executive Producer credit for his
hand in re-cutting the film. Release date is January (no surprise there).
NEXT WEEK: The march of the DVD Mania continues, plus your comments!
See you then and excelsior!