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Aisle Seat All-Star Break Report Card

SCARY MOVIE strikes out, the Soapbox arrives, and the Mail Bag overflows!

By Andy Dursin

It's been a rough summer for movies, and audiences are starving for fun. Just look at SCARY MOVIE, which improbably managed to have the biggest three-day opening this side of MISSION: HORRENDOUS 2, raking in some $45 million (!) over the weekend. The overall attendance and box-office profits has been down in summer 2000 in comparison to last year, and all you need to do is look at the selection of movies out there to give this overall season a failing grade.

Hopefully, Bryan Singer's highly-awaited X-MEN will change some of that Friday. Sure, the movie is apparently only 95 minutes long (there hasn't been a super-hero movie this short since SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE!), and Michael Kamen's score likely won't do the movie any favors, but the trailers are good, the cast is great, and in a summer lacking in rousing, escapist fare, somehow I think X- MEN will be a big hit, arriving at a perfect time for audiences that have been hungering for this kind of genre entertainment. Here's hoping Marvel gets their due in a lavish, major-studio production, and paves the way for SPIDER-MAN and other long-promised projects to follow.

In the meantime, we have a below of the #1 movie currently out there below, along with a look at Image's terrific Irwin Allen DVD, the premiere of ANDY'S SOAPBOX (just a Larry King-like, random thoughts column), and plenty of Mail Bag comments on THE PATRIOT, THE PERFECT STORM, and other topics of choice. Read on!


New in Theaters

SCARY MOVIE (**): There are times when it is hard to fathom why critics often react like they do to certain movies. Case in point is this wildly overpraised spoof of SCREAM (itself a spoof!), I KNOW WHAT YOU DID..., and every other recent teen horror movie, which has a few scattershot laughs but ultimately runs out of gas well before the end. Maybe there was a lot of high-quality food out at the Disney press junket that was the reason for the positive notices this ultimately tiresome, mind-numbingly raunchy comedy received last week?

Like a sketch comedy segment stretched out to feature length, Keenan Ivory Wayans's gross-out comedy has about 20 minutes of good material, and spends much of its time calling attention to horror movie cliches (themselves outlined, in great detail, in every one of the SCREAM movies!), and thinks that it's being far funnier than it really is. A good example is its self-proclaimed "satires" of THE MATRIX, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and THE SIXTH SENSE, which are limited to one specific reference to a scene in those movies and which, predictably enough, are all shown in the trailers.

There are some laughs here, but since the advertisements give most of them away, what you're left with is a movie that's so raunchy, profane, and also disgusting (with some truly obscene, and unfunny, visual gags) that its excesses leave you drenched in gutter-humor mentality. Between this movie -- which I assume will take a box-office nose-dive after its first weekend through bad word of mouth (a sold-out audience clearly wasn't into it at the screening I attended) -- and the recent work of the Farrelly Brothers, hopefully someone will figure out how to make a comedy that doesn't entirely pander to a level of humor only a group of idiotic 13 year-olds would find amusing. (R, 85 mins)


Danger, Will Robinson! IRWIN ALLEN Returns to DVD

Not to be lost in the shuffle of the big Special Editions we're being bombarded with seemingly every week on DVD, Image's recent release of THE FANTASY WORLDS OF IRWIN ALLEN (***, $19.98) is the sort of special production that movie buffs truly savor.

A straightforward, 95-minute documentary produced for the Sci-Fi Channel, this look back at Allen's work in television (LOST IN SPACE, LAND OF THE GIANTS, TIME TUNNEL, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, even his mid-80s CBS mini-series of ALICE IN WONDERLAND) and film (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE TOWERING INFERNO -- slightly glossing over some of his disastrous later work) boasts wonderful reminiscences by the stars of many of those productions, from Roddy McDowall to Barbara Eden, Robert Wagner, David "Al" Hedison, Steve Allen and others. It also includes plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, priceless promotional snippets, and blooper material.

Image's DVD sweetens the pot by including the entire, unedited featurettes for LAND OF THE GIANTS, CITY BENEATH THE SEA, THE MAN FROM THE 25TH CENTURY, and THE TOWERING INFERNO -- each offering campy laughs, in keeping with the style of many Allen productions.

It's interesting in that, while as corny and outlandish as some of Allen's work was, I'm not sure there's a filmmaker from the '60s and '70s whose penchant for otherworldly fantasies and special effects wouldn't be any less appreciated in 2000 than Allen. In some respects, he certainly was ahead of his time, and this loving DVD retrospective proves that point in a fully entertaining fashion.


"CLUE" DVD Correction

The good folks at Paramount emailed me to correct my review of CLUE a week ago. As you may remember, this is the movie with three separate endings, that you could either watch on DVD all together (as the film was originally released to video tape and cable), or randomly select ONE of the conclusions from the menu screen. Apparently, there's an Easter Egg to be found here in regards to that situation (don't read on if you don't want to know!): if you select "random ending" from the menu, flip through to the end, then RETURN to that menu screen, you will then have the option of watching any ending you'd please.

So, there IS a way to access the film with any ending you'd like to see. You just have to do a little bit of work to get there! (Hey, at least it's easier than finding the isolated music track for THE MUMMY!).


ANDY'S SOAPBOX!

A Weekly Round-Up of Entertainment News, Quick Takes on DVD & Soundtracks, and other rambling opinions

Taking a look at some intriguing recent developments....Reports are circulating that Jim Carrey is in full meltdown stage after ME MYSELF & IRENE underperformed at the box-office. Word also has it that Jimbo hated what he has seen of THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS, and says it's as if he didn't even know he was acting in it. Now, chances are good that by the time the FX are finished and ample doses of James Horner's sure-to-be-sugary score are added, the movie will be watchable, but even I have to admit that from looking at the trailer, what's the point of having Carrey play the Grinch, when it's almost impossible to recognize him in it? Ron Howard -- a solid, workmanlike-director but far from a visionary -- has also never really tackled a fantasy like this before. (Sure, I remember WILLOW too, but remember most of that movie was George Lucas's doing, with Howard being a hired hand)...Good job by Mark Wahlberg, suiting up for not one but two PLANET OF THE APES movies. Wahlberg signed on without seeing a script, but since Tim Burton is in the director's chair, he decided it was a good career move. I have to agree, and I'm sure Fox will be compensating royally for the second film as well...Speaking of that, isn't next summer shaping up to be a bit more exciting than this one, what with JURASSIC PARK 3, PLANET OF THE APES, LORD OF THE RINGS, BLADE 2, and A.I. all going to be in the mix at least? Add a potential web-slinger into the fray and 2001 already has more enticing big-screen action lined up than all of 2000 combined so far...After a few listens, I continue to find John Williams's score from THE PATRIOT to be a rousing, uplifting affair, and one of his finest works in many years. The soundtrack album is likewise a treat, offering a generous 72 minutes, with Williams having mixed the order of the tracks to provide a fuller listening experience (that will drive die-hard soundtrack buffs batty as usual!)...If you head out to buy the JAWS DVD on Tuesday (which I have yet to screen), and have DTS Digital Sound capability in your home-theater system, most online reports have it that the DTS 5.1 mix is far superior, crisper, and enveloping than the Dolby Digital track. Supplements are the same on both DVDs, and so is the price...Still no official announcement concerning the LEGEND DVD -- hopefully there will be some news soon in regards to the long-awaited restoration of Jerry Goldsmith's score...Speaking of Goldsmith, Anchor Bay's SUPERGIRL 2-DVD set is now on-track for a August 25th bow, with all the goodies I've been ranting about for months now. Hold on people, it will soon come to a conclusion!...


Aisle Seat Mail Bag

(Some SPOILERS on THE PERFECT STORM below, FYI)

>From Michael Contreras <mac1165@peoplepc.com>

    Yes, Andy. Where's the score to Shaft? Is another David Arnold score being ignored? Remember Godzilla? The music, definitely not the movie. I loved Shaft, especially that it wasn't wall to wall action. But Arnold's score was truly cool, exciting, and brilliantly tracked into this movie. I haven't seen The Patriot yet. (Still trying to work in the right time with my girlfriend) But, yes, Williams' score is wonderful. My first thought was that this score sounds ten years old, which is okay by me. I only wish Williams had created such memorable music for the latest Star Wars installment. This crappy movie needed something!

I found it quite interesting that not only did the movie posters and credits never list an original score for SHAFT until the day the movie was released, but our FSM composer listing never had anyone down for it! After talking to friend of mine in the UK, we concluded that Arnold must have been a list-minute hire, after he was dumped from THE PATRIOT. Still, Arnold's music is wall-to-wall and works terrifically in the film -- making it a shame that the soundtrack album is 90% songs "inspired by" the movie. I'm hoping we will see a score album, but since the movie has cooled off so much at the box-office (even though it's turned a profit), I'm not sure it will happen, sad to say.

There are SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven't seen THE PERFECT STORM, so do be careful if you read on...

>From Chris Kinsinger <ckinsinger@earthlink.net>

    Once again you prove that we were separated at birth, with your review of "The Perfect Storm". We agree totally. The film is very entertaining, in the same way that an amusement park thrill-coaster is entertaining. The ride is WILD, and you can't wait to get off! I was SOOOO happy to leave the theatre and run outside to look at the sun! The film has that effect...it places you IN the killer storm, and you want to get OUT!

    Sadly, though, there aren't any actors to really care about here, and the script is too weak to provide a solid base for viewers to identify with and stand upon. We'd like to see these fishermen succeed, but this mission was wrong from the outset, and by the time that Billy Tyne (George Clooney) delivers his "separate the men from the boys" speech, these poor guys are already dead men. It's now only a matter of watching how they will all meet their deaths.

    I remember this storm...back in 1991, I watched it form in the atmosphere. The news media reported the peril of the "Andrea Gail", and my wife prayed for their safe return. The bottom line is that these deaths were all preventable...these men would all be alive today, if they had made the right choices. The film endeavors to hero-ize Billy Tyne. I have a problem with this. Tyne had many opportunities to save himself and his crew, and he consistently chose to confront the forces of nature instead. We know how it ended. Tragically...not only did the ship's crew all perish, but a coast guard patrol man died as well, all because of one captain's bad decisions. "The Perfect Storm" disturbs me because there are real people out there who are still mourning their losses, while Warner Bros. count their millions...

Chris, indeed they are counting their millions -- $64 million in its first five days and about an another $24 million this weekend as well. Goes to show what happens when you get a PG-13 rated special effects picture out there in a marketplace hungering for a visual-spectacle like this.

>From AI77964@cs.com:

    I agree with your review of John Williams' "The Patriot." However, I found the music similar, not to "Far and Away" and "Liberty Fanfare," but "Air Force One" and "Amistad."

>From James Sillito <jsillito@msn.com>

    Andy, I was wondering if you saw any of the TV spots for The Patriot, and if so, do you have any idea what score they used in the background. The score they used has been haunting me for many years and I cannot seem to find out what movie it was from. I think the TV spot was about 15 seconds and I saw it about 3 days ago.

James, I believe the music from the spot you're talking about is a Hans Zimmer composition, and it sounds to me like THE PEACEMAKER. However, if anyone has any concrete information, please pass it along!

>From Corey Witte:

    Dear Andy (and your readers):

    According to the wealth of information in this month's issue of American Cinematographer, there was no blue filter used in the sequence you refer to in Gladiator. Indeed, judging from the statements by Scott and cinematographer Mathieson, there was very little use of color filters of any kind. For those interested, Scott's film is worth catching again after having read the above magazine (something I was lucky enough to do after catching an industry screening a couple weeks ago and then seeing the film again opening night.) It won't change anyone's opinion of the story or dramatic content, but it does give one a lot more to look for. Scott and his team are to be commended for making as immensely visually detailed a film as they did in such a short schedule for a production of this size.

Thanks for the heads-up, Corey....but it still doesn't answer the question why the entire frame was blue when we first see the city of Rome. I know the movie has done very well, and I certainly commend its intent, but GLADIATOR just didn't do it for me.

Speaking of not doing it for me, I received plenty of angry reaction over my review of BLUE VELVET a while back from readers outside the U.S., so read on, Lynchfiles, your defenders have arrived!

>From Jean-Michel Cavrois <jmcavrois@free.fr>":

    Well, Monsieur Dursin, excusez-moi, but here, in France, The Straight Story was a good success, and a critically acclaimed movie! You'll say, "Ah, les Francais..." But, in Cannes, this movie won "The Palme d'Or from the Heart." Needless to say, it was a great moment for me, and this movie, and actually, just rethinking of it, makes me really peaceful. (God, that wordless dialogue between the two brothers at the end...) Should I say that the magistral Lost Highway scared me to death... that Blue Velvet gave me the desire to hide in a closet and be voyeuristic with a neighbor of mine...and that I'll never forget the evenings spent on a old couch were a girl friend of mine and I watched, hidden from Bob under a Blanket, shakin', laughin' and screamin' with the inhabitants of Twin Peaks... (Okay, I agree with you, Dune is an awful mess...) An "elder reader" of FSM would say it's a matter of taste... But, believe me, Lynch's cinema has become an intimate part of my life, and I just hope that a Blue Velvet DVD see the light in Region 2! Voila, I just wanted to send you this different opinion -- but don't think I'm criticizing you because you were negative toward David Lynch! Positive critics are so boring: what could you react to?

>From Stephane Michaud <s.michaud@videotron.ca>

      "In fact, I can say with some confidence that the only project of (David Lynch) that I can enthusiastically endorse is the first season of his ABC series TWIN PEAKS (...)" --Andy Dursin, The Aisle Seat

    Well, how about his restrained, emotional ELEPHANT MAN, and its eloquent score by John Morris that remains one of the very best of the '80's? Now THAT is worth of a DVD release! I heard it's already available in Region 2...

Stephane, OK, the movie wasn't bad. You have me there, and you're also correct about a Region 2 ELEPHANT MAN, as far as I know. I'm pretty certain Paramount owns THE ELEPHANT MAN, who perhaps you should drop a note to them and see what they can do.


NEXT WEEK: SHAFT swings on DVD, THE X-MEN arrives in theaters, and more of your comments! Send all emails to dursina@att.net and we'll check you then. Excelsior!


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