DREAMCATCHER: Delirious fun?
Plus: A Vic Mizzy Classic debuts on CD and the usual ramblings
An Aisle Seat Entry
By Andy Dursin
One of the first film scores to ever draw my attention as a youngster
was Vic Mizzy's THE SPIRIT IS WILLING, a late '60s William Castle
ghost comedy that aired one rainy Saturday afternoon on Channel 56's "Creature
Double Feature" in Boston.
It didn't matter that the movie itself wasn't so funny (despite having
a cast including Sid Caesar), or that I was likely too young to find anything
amusing in it to begin with. What did matter, though, was that I loved
Vic Mizzy's score.
Sure, it might have helped that my other fave film when I was six years
old (aside from "Star Wars") was "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken," another classic
scored by Mizzy that I hope will be released on CD one day. Mizzy's toe-tapping,
infectious melodic score was instantly appealing to my senses, and for
years I futilely scanned the catalogs at Intrada and STAR hoping that the
score was released somewhere in the world.
So, I was thrilled to learn a few months ago that Taylor White and the
folks at Percepto were championing Mizzy's masterful score and finally
giving THE SPIRIT IS WILLING an actual, bona fide soundtrack release --
paired on CD with another Mizzy effort, "The Busy Body."
The resulting CD is a labor of love that comes highly recommended to
anyone who enjoys Mizzy's unique, unmistakable sound. The haunting (no
pun intended) Main Title - - presented sadly without the composer's long-lost
vocal track -- sets the tone for a score filled with ballet-like melodic
cues ("Bedroom Cares"), jaunty comedic tracks with a dose of the "Addams
Family" groove ("Where's She Hiding"), and sly, lyrical underscoring ("Sinking").
While the film was deemed a misfire (despite having been based on an
acclaimed, and straight, ghost story by Nathaniel Benchley), Mizzy's score
is a gem. "The Busy Body" is likewise a lot of fun, with the composer bringing
his distinctive sound to another (unsuccessful) parody film concocted by
Percepto's CD offers both scores in clean monophonic sound, along with
a colorful booklet featuring notes from the composer. Needless to say,
this package comes highly, highly recommended -- now, where's that "Ghost
and Mr. Chicken" soundtrack when you need it??
DREAMCATCHER (**1/2): Most of you know that I have a certain
affection for good bad movies -- films that are gleefully entertaining
not in spite of their flaws, but because of them.
Lawrence Kasdan's adaptation of Stephen King's DREAMCATCHER is one of
those deliriously fun movies that sadly comes down the pike only once in
a long while. It's an end-of-the-world sci-fi/horror movie that borrows
freely from ALIEN, TREMORS, THE THING, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS,
and SPECIES to name just a few, not to mention King's own IT and STAND
Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Timothy Olyphant, and Jason Lee play four
childhood friends who spend one weekend a year at a secluded Maine cabin
during the dead of winter. One year, the guys -- who also have psychic
abilities -- happen to time their vacation with the outbreak of a strange
disease of alien origin that sends a deranged military man (Morgan Freeman)
and his squad out to contain the outbreak.
What follows from there is an almost indescribable potpourri of sci-fi
cliches and King staples including but not limited to: invading extraterrestrials,
disgusting alien parasites that travel through the human digestive system,
childhood friends who form an unlikely alliance through their adult years,
men possessed against their will, and an evil alien who announces his villainy
by speaking with a British accent!
DREAMCATCHER has been roundly booed off the screen by critics and most
audiences, but even with its awkward passages and laughable dialogue (with
plot holes as large as the gap in the Maine woods that the alien ship leaves
behind), at heart the movie is a gooey and entertaining "Saturday matinee"
creature flick that more often than not delivers the goods for genre fans.
Sure, you can ask what screenwriter William Goldman and co-writer/director
Kasdan were doing slumming in material like this, but I'd still gladly
take this movie any day over the filmmaker's more pretentious piffle like
"Grand Canyon" and "Mumford."
Even with serpentine aliens exploding from the anuses of unsuspecting
Maine townsfolk, Thomas Jane and Damian Lewis fare well as two of the lifelong
friends combating the otherworldly invaders. Freeman, meanwhile, is completely
over-the-top in a performance filled with inane dialogue -- what more can
you say when Tom Sizemore plays his military cohort, and comes off as incredibly
subdued in comparison!
DREAMCATCHER starts slowly but takes a turn toward the outrageous (and
entertaining) once the aliens show up about midway through. What follows
from there isn't quite on the level of "Lifeforce" (an Aisle Seat favorite
you can read about here),
but as big studio-backed horror movies go, it's pretty darned close. The
final confrontation between the chief alien and the guys' "special" friend
Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg) is somehow both hilarious and exciting at the
same time, capped by the immortal line "Scooby-Scooby-Doo, we have some
work to do!!"
Needless to say, there are some choice moments scattered throughout
the movie, and I'd rather not spoil them if you're up for seeing the flick
in theaters or later on DVD. Either way, DREAMCATCHER is worth it for those
special moments, ILM's terrific special effects, and James Newton Howard's
fine score. Just remember to bring some popcorn along for the ride. (R,
New On DVD
GHOST SHIP (*1/2, 91 mins., 2002, R; Warner Home Video): From
the "so bad it's good" to the just plain bad, this third Halloween release
from Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment is a by-the-numbers
affair that strands a good cast in a sea of horror movie cliches.
Julianna Marguiles and Gabriel Byrne play members of a salvage vessel
that discovers a long-lost ocean liner stranded deep at sea. As we learn
from an especially bloody prologue (presented with colorful, '60s-like
credits -- oh, the irony!), the crew and passengers of the Antonia Graza
were killed instantly when an accident claimed their lives -- or did it?
Marguiles, Byrne, and their crew soon find a stash of gold onboard the
ship, along with a collection of ghosts trying to be set free.
Steve Beck directed the previous (and superior) Dark Castle effort,
"13 Ghosts," but with GHOST SHIP he's saddled with a tepid script credited
to Mark Hanlon and John Pogue. The movie's premise is promising, but the
screenplay never settles on a consistent tone, with few scares or impressive
effects outside of the unpleasant opening sequence.
Where the movie really goes wrong is in its final third, which introduces
an antagonist with motives so poorly developed that you're lost trying
to figure out what's going on. Throw in a groaner of a "twist" ending and
GHOST SHIP manages to botch what little positive elements it had going
for it in the first place.
Warner's DVD is a solid affair, though. The 1.85 transfer is excellent
and the 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack passable enough, though I was surprised
by the relative lack of surround effects for a movie of this kind. There's
no audio commentary on the DVD, though like the "13 Ghosts" DVD, the disc
includes short character vignettes, extensive Making Of featurettes on
the make-up and FX, a Cinemax special, and a music video.
GHOST SHIP made a modest sum at the box-office last fall, but its R-rated
gore kept its numbers down while the PG-13 rated -- and far spookier --
THE RING became a breakthrough success. With a meandering script and downright
awful finale, this is one SHIP that deserved to sink.
Aisle Seat Mail Bag
From Jeremy Moniz:
We film music aficionados are a strange lot and I really
enjoyed [last week's] intro covering the new Legend Of Zelda release. Video
games have evolved into an excellent league of their own when it comes
to visuals, plot, and, of course, underscore.
Jeremy, thanks for the kudos -- ZELDA is quite an achievement and a lot
of fun, as well. As far as the DRAGON'S LAIR remake goes, it actually was
released on the major systems late last fall, and was, sadly, poorly received.
I thought that you might like to know, if you didn't already, is
that Don Bluth is supervising a "cel shaded" 3D remake to "Dragon's Lair"
due later this year. Hopefully the praise you've given Zelda will pale
in comparison to this long awaited game remake. And, if we're lucky, Christopher
Stone will record some fantastic new music for the game. I believe he composed
the brief cues for the original laserdisc version and also for Space Ace.
If anyone is still hunting for a copy of Georges Delerue's ultra-rare
and limited FRENCH REVOLUTION CD re-issue, the Canadian online retailer
Archambault.ca has them for $44 (Canadian). I received my copy last weekend,
and suspect they still have them in- stock at the moment. English is accessible
by clicking on the tab in the upper-right hand corner, and the CD is listed
under "REVOLUTION FRANCAISE." Definitely recommended!
Next Week: The FAMILY GUY comes to DVD, plus your
comments and more reviews! Send all emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
and we'll catch you then. Excelsior!