Wasted TIME at the Aisle Seat
Also: LEGEND Officially Announced!!
Plus: Ghost World, Jay & Silent Bob on DVD
By Andy Dursin
The saga is over: Ridley Scott's LEGEND has been officially,
finally confirmed by Universal for a May 21st release.
Retail for this double-disc "Ultimate Edition" is an attractive $24.98,
and gives you both the 113-minute, Restored Director's Cut with Jerry Goldsmith's
music, as well as the 90-minute U.S. version with Mango Nightmare score
(check that, music by Tangerine Dream). Extras include what we've been
hearing about for the better part of the last couple of years: audio commentary,
a documentary, a look at "lost" scenes, storyboards, plus DTS and Dolby
Digital tracks on the Director's Cut.There is Tangerine Dream isolated
score, but no separate track for Jerry's outstanding, classic original
work (though this doesn't come as any surprise).
While I hope the multi-year hold-up hasn't been over the inclusion
of Bryan Ferry's music video, at long last we'll finally be able to see
LEGEND as it was meant to be this May.
New In Theaters
Many of us regard George Pal's version of The Time Machine as
a bona-fide classic in science fiction/fantasy filmmaking, so when Dreamworks
announced that they'd be producing a remake several years ago, the obvious
responses of "why tamper with a masterpiece?" were moaned from all circles.
Of course, being a critic, you have to give each movie its due, but
even on its own terms, the soulless and highly uneven new version of THE
TIME MACHINE (**) rates as something of a big-budget misfire.
Running barely 90 minutes and showing signs of post-production tinkering
at every step, this John Logan-scripted, Simon Wells-directed affair puts
Guy Pearce into Rod Taylor's role of a brilliant scientist who ventures
forward in time to chart the progression of man. Here, however, Logan has
felt the need to add a tragic angle to Wells' story, with Pearce losing
his bride-to-be and wanting to change the past to improve the present.
Of course, it doesn't quite go as planned, leading Pearce to travel
forward to find the answers to why he can't change past events. After a
quick sojourn to an impending future where we see the moon break apart
(a great plot device treated as a throwaway here), Pearce ultimately finds
a futuristic society more like Stargate than its source material, with
the cliff-dwelling Eloi tribe trying to stay alive while muscular, subterranean
Morlocks hunt them at every step. What's more, the Morlocks are organized
by a cunning Jeremy Irons, who looks like he just got out of a heavy metal
concert and didn't bother to change his make-up.
There are some good things in THE TIME MACHINE, though much of it feels
strangely rushed and compromised. The opening half-hour, set in the 1800s,
is well shot by Donald McAlphine and certainly looks elegant, but the movie
starts to turn sour once it moves ahead into the future. There, we get
the standard "a hero will rise" plot with an outsider leading peaceful
natives against deadly predators, but there's so little character interplay
that it makes William Broyles' script from Tim Burton's PLANET OF THE APES
seem like a WGA award-contender by comparison.
A plot device involving Orlando Jones as the holographic embodiment
of the NY Public Library's computer system (!) surprisingly pays off, but
Wells' pacing feels like a movie trailer: there's no character development
at any point in the film, and what there is -- namely, scenes with
Pearce's pal Mark Addy -- seem like an afterthought. (It could be that
the film's turbulent shoot resulted in the jettison of numerous plot elements
and scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor; certainly the movie's
uneven pacing seems to confirm that).
Klaus Badelt's score, meanwhile, works fine in its orchestral passages,
but throws in a laughable "tribal" motif that sounds so much like the theme
from TV's SURVIVOR that you'll be looking for host Jeff Probst to appear
and vote Pearce out of the movie.
Though some criticized Pal's film because it took a "comic book approach"
to the material, at least the original movie left plenty to the viewer's
imagination -- particularly at the end. This TIME MACHINE not only leaps
from event to event, ending with a climax that's been so poorly built up
that you can't believe that's all there is, but also spells out the final
scene that the original left so beautifully ambiguous.
I could also go into the ridiculously vague "rules" for its time paradoxes,
the almost complete lack of humor, and how nice it was to see Alan Young
again (if only for a few seconds), but why bother? It's too bad Simon Wells
and company couldn't have gone back in time and prevented this sorry remake
from ever happening in the first place -- or at least improved what there
was before making us pay $8.75 to see it. (PG-13)
New and Noteworthy
THE ONE (*1/2, 2001, 87 mins., PG-13; Columbia TriStar, $24.98):
A pair of dueling Jet Lis go at it in this interminable sci-fi/martial
arts hybrid from former "X-Files" producers James Wong and Glen Morgan,
who found considerably more success making the amusing teen thriller "Final
Destination" a couple of years ago.
Here, Li plays both a cop in the present day and his psychotic evil
twin, who comes barreling out of the "multiverse" to kill one of his alter-egos.
It turns out that there isn't just one universe in the world, but over
120 others, and Bad Jet has nothing better to do with his time than to
jump from one dimension to the other, killing all of his brethren in the
Unfortunately, the difference between Good Jet and Bad Ji isn't, say,
as interesting as Mr. Spock and his goatee-wearing evil twin from STAR
TREK's "Mirror, Mirror." The Asian superstar struggles with his limited
dialogue and makes all of the sequences involving the good-guy cop's wife
(Carla Gugino) a real chore to sit through, while Wong and Morgan never
come up with a reason why we should care about anything that happens --
it's by-the-numbers all the way.
Tellingly, the movie is over by the 80 minute mark (and is padded by
some seven minutes of end credits), but feels like it's over two hours
long. Technically, some razzle-dazzle CGI work is contrasted with relatively
cheap looking sets and blah cinematography, capped off by a routine score
by Trevor Rabin.
Columbia's DVD is right on par with their usual efforts, meaning the
2.35 transfer is exceptional and the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack crisp
and effective (though it's not an overly elaborate, "showcase" mix you'll
be using to show off your sound system). If widescreen isn't your cup of
tea, a full-frame transfer is also included (but should be avoided at all
Supplemental extras aren't extensive, but do offer a decent commentary
track by the crew and filmmakers, generic Making Of featurettes, filmographies,
trailers, and an animatics comparison.
GHOST WORLD (**, 2001, 111 mins., R; MGM, $19.98):
This tale of post-high school angst, growing up, isolation, and alienation
drew raves from critics and art house aficionados, though I found its weak,
overlong third act to detract from the consistently solid performances
and smart, though at times uneven, writing.
Thora Birch plays Enid, a sarcastic, recent high school graduate who's
smart in some elements of life yet wholly immature in others -- like a
lot of kids today, she's become an adult without really growing up. For
one final high school prank, Enid opts to answer a classified ad placed
by loner Steve Buscemi, only to find out his stash of obscure LPs is something
she actually can relate to -- well, sort of.
As time passes, it's clear that Enid has a lot of maturing to do. While
pal Rebecca (Scarlet Johansson) decides to get a job after graduation,
Enid is hopelessly stuck in neutral, wanting to move on but not knowing
how. She ends up being fired from a gig at the local multiplex (a memorable
sequence), having to pass a summer class taught by pretentious artist Illeana
Douglas, and falling for Buscemi, which causes trouble when he begins a
relationship with an older woman.
Daniel Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff scripted this droll adaptation
of Clowes' comic book, which works best during the first hour with its
almost self-contained sequences deftly meditating on everything from video
store clerks to high school losers and convenience stores. The characters
are vividly drawn and the performances are excellent -- particularly Buscemi,
who dials down his usual persona in a well-shaded, completely believable
here are plenty of laughs and smart observations -- all the scenes
in Douglas' art class are hysterical -- but the movie becomes less satisfying
during the final 40 minutes, when the focus is turned strictly on Birch
and Buscemi's relationship. The progression of the story is quite uneven
-- certain dramatic elements are never fully developed (like Birch's use
of an old, racist restaurant logo as her art class project and the controversy
that ensues) -- while the final minutes seem to go on forever, arriving
at an ending we can see coming from miles away.
Despite its disappointing final third, GHOST WORLD is still worth a
look for its decidedly unique view of the "teen movie" genre and uniform
MGM's Special Edition DVD features a handful of deleted/alternate scenes,
a Making Of featurette, music video, and the original trailer. The colorful
1.85 transfer is flawless, nicely capturing Alfonso Beato's cinematography,
while the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound includes an eclectic soundtrack of songs
and an effective, low-key score by David Kitay.
JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (**1/2, 2001, 104
mins., R; Dimension, $29.98): The apparently final adventure of Kevin Smith's
long-running Jay and Silent Bob characters (previously seen in the director's
past projects from "Clerks" to "Dogma") is a ribald, sporadically funny
comedy that overcomes its hit-or-miss gags with a bright, energetic pace
and plenty of in-jokes.
After finding out they've been turned into comic book heroes (dubbed
Bluntman and Chronic) and that a forthcoming movie adaptation is in production,
Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) decide to take a road trip cross-country
to take down the studio. What follows is a wacky farce with Jay and Silent
Bob running into diamond-stealing femme fatales (Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza
Dushku, and Ali Larter), an incompetent park ranger (Will Ferrell), and
appearances by nearly every star of Smith's previous films, including Ben
Affleck as both his "Chasing Amy" character and -- in an uproarious spoof
of "Good Will Hunting" -- himself!
While the laughs are scattershot for a while, the big Hollywood finish
provides plenty of amusement: Chris Rock is notably hilarious as the film's
foul-mouthed director (actually, pretty much EVERYONE in this film is foul-mouthed),
while James Van Der Beek and Jason Biggs provide some big laughs as themselves
-- as does Mark Hamill, mocking Luke Skywalker and having a grand time
as the cinematic bad guy.
Like many of Smith's previous films on DVD, Dimension's double-disc
Special Edition of JAY AND SILENT BOB boasts hours worth of terrific special
features, including audio commentary, over 40 deleted scenes with introductions
from the director (and special guests), gag reel, TV spots, still galleries,
music videos, a Comedy Central special, and assorted DVD-ROM extras.
Visually, the 2.35 transfer is solid and the "specially prepared for
DVD" 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is highly active. Even if you've run
hot and cold on some of Smith's work (like I have), JAY AND SILENT BOB
is a funny, profane romp that should raise a few smiles on the faces of
anyone clued into today's Hollywood.
RAT RACE (*1/2, 2001, 112 mins., PG-13; Paramount,
$29.98): It might have somehow become a box-office hit, but this astoundingly
unfunny -- and uncredited -- variation on "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"
is a sad waste of talent in front and behind the camera, especially considering
that "Airplane!"/"Naked Gun" co-director Jerry Zucker was at the helm.
Andy Breckman's plot is just about as basic as "Mad World": billionaire
John Cleese decides to send a group of crazed individuals on a scavenger
hunt to retrieve some $2-million from a locker in New Mexico. The group
of nuts are predictably varied across a wide racial, economic, and social
plain, including ousted pro football official Cuba Gooding, Jr., narcoleptic
Italian Rowan Atkinson, aspiring attorney Breckin Meyer, family man Jon
Lovitz, slacker Seth Green, plus Whoopi Goldberg and Wayne Knight. All
are steadfast in their desire to retrieve the cash, which takes place in
the form of an "anything goes" race from Las Vegas to New Mexico.
While it's hard to believe that one of the Zucker brothers has completely
lost touch with his comedic sensibilities, RAT RACE is an interminable
farce that actually suffers from one of "Mad World"'s own ailments: that
people screaming for the better part of several hours doesn't actually
constitute comedy. We get a talking cow attached to a hot-air balloon,
Lovitz hijacking Hitler's car, Atkinson tiresomely reprising Mr. Bean again,
and a busload of Lucille Ball imitators -- are you laughing yet? It's been
a while since we've seen so many talented actors looking so utterly lost,
and I'm not even going to discuss the godawful cameos by former SCTV funnyman
Dave Thomas, comic Paul Rodriguez, and Kathy Bates!
On top of the misfired gags and painfully dull action set-pieces, RAT
RACE even manages to throw in an infuriating, "feel good" message ending
that had me wanting to throw my remote at the TV set. It's an exercise
in futility that's best left on the video store shelves.
Paramount's Collector's Edition DVD is a bit on the light side supplements
wise, featuring an interview between Zucker and Breckman (who act as if
they've just produced the funniest film ever made), a couple of deleted
scenes, featurette, gag reel, trailer, and another outrageously un-funny
segment called "Jerry and Andy Call the Actors."
The 2.35 transfer ranges from okay to excellent while the 5.1 sound
is variable in terms of its stereophonic presence. John Powell's score
works overtime to sustain a feeling of zany shenanigans, though the only
portion of his music (which replaced a rejected score by Elmer Bernstein)
that works is a choral rendition of the Baha Men's title song.
HARDBALL (**, 2001, 106 mins., PG-13; Paramount,
$29.98): A modest box-office hit released just days after September 11,
"Hardball" finds struggling gambler Keanu Reeves trying to make payments
while attempting to place one last bet on his hometown Chicago Bulls. Enter
his investment broker pal Mike McGlone, who promises Keanu that he'll pay
him $500 per-week IF he'll coach an inner-city kids baseball team in the
Deciding to take his pal up on the offer, Keanu reluctantly opts to
coach the youngsters, though this isn't quite the "The Bad News Ghetto
Bears" that the ads promised. Ultimately, the underdog collection of young
African-American children show Keanu that it's not whether you win or lose
but the ability to play -- and get off inner-city streets ravaged with
drugs and guns -- that's most worthwhile.
Brian Robbins ("Varsity Blues") directed this uneven adaptation of Daniel
Coyle's novel, which seems like it can't make up its mind whether to be
a gritty, realistic story of a gambler seeking redemption, an inner-city
kids' sports film, or a combination of both. Reeves puts in some good work
here, but while his character ultimately does form the focus of the film,
the shift to the kids' troubles and the games themselves feels strictly
formula and at times from another movie.
What's worse, the tragic elements of the story seem completely at odds
with the film's advertising, which was geared strongly towards younger
viewers (even though the movie originally had an R rating until some profanity
was edited out of the final cut), while the obligatory love story between
Reeves and teacher Diane Lane doesn't come off at all.
Paramount's DVD features a crisp and flawless 1.85 transfer and throbbing
5.1 Dolby soundtrack, featuring a decent score by Mark Isham. Extra features
here include a Making Of, three deleted scenes culled off a workprint,
"interstitials," several music videos, and commentary with Robbins and
screenwriter John Gatins.
DON'T SAY A WORD (***, 2001, 113 mins., R; Fox,
$26.98): By-the-numbers but quite entertaining thriller finds Michael Douglas
as a New York City psychiatrist whose daughter is kidnapped by a group
of bank robbers looking for the location of a lost jewel, and whose new
patient -- a young girl played by Brittany Murphy -- may have the answers
the kidnappers are looking for.
Douglas' compelling performance is complimented by fine supporting work
from Murphy, Jennifer Esposito as a hard-working NYC cop, and "Goldeneye"
alumni Sean Bean as the head bad guy and Famke Jenssen as Douglas' (Catherine
Zeta-like) younger wife.
Director Gary Fleder's use of NYC locales gives the film a gritty (but
fortunately not grimy) look while the movie unfolds at a steady pace, unraveling
its various twists and turns like a good mystery-thriller should and coming
together well at the finish line.
While there are times when there's too much action and story -- and
not a whole lot of character development -- DON'T SAY A WORD is certainly
competent enough to sustain one's interest for a single viewing. It's constructed
like an old-fashioned thriller, without an abundance of gore and violence
(despite the R rating), and with a fine cast turning in solid work.
Fox's Special Edition offers some of the strongest supplements I've
seen on DVD lately: two commentary tracks (one from the director, another
featuring the actors) are more revealing than usual, while a candid interview
with director Fleder informs us that Murphy introduced several narrative
ideas through improvisation that ultimately became part of the movie's
plot. Producers Arnold and Anne Kopelson are also interviewed, offering
interesting anecdotes about their producing careers, while Fleder does
an excellent job explaining the scoring process (particularly temp tracks)
while composer Mark Isham is seen in scoring session footage.
Excellent featurettes on the various aspects of the production -- from
Murphy's screen test to a production design examination -- are also included,
while the 2.35 transfer and dual DTS/Dolby Digital soundtracks are both
NEXT WEEK: SLAP SHOT 2, THE SKULLS 2 in a parade
of made-for-video sequels, plus other surprises (we hope!). Email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll catch you