Screenwriter Paul Rudnick (Adams Family Values, In and Out ) is wicked with the one-liners, so zingers abound in his tongue-in-cheek reworking of "The Stepford Wives" -- the creepy, retrospectively campy chiller from 1975 about suburban spouses turned into sweet, subservient, June Cleaver robots.
So ripe for lampoonery that the word "Stepford" has become an adjective ironically slapped on anything deemed too Norman Rockwell-esque, the original picture's concept of anti-feminism taken to a paranoid extreme is fodder for raillery in Rudnick's script.
But he isn't remotely as clever when it comes to plot. In fact, as long as he gets a laugh he doesn't seem to care if his story makes a lick of sense. He can't even decide if the automaton wives in his "Stepford" are robots (impervious to fire and prone to shooting sparks from their necks) or real women (brainwashed with microchip implants) who are capable of snapping out of their halcyon daze if their programming fails.
Continue reading: The Stepford Wives Review
Inspired by a group of middle-aged women in Yorkshire, England, who rocked the boat in their local knitting-and-baking club and made worldwide headlines by posing nude for a charity calendar, "Calendar Girls" is a quaintly cheeky comedy very much in the vein of "The Full Monty."
Blessed with sparkling performances from the fabulous Helen Mirren and Julie Walters ("Billy Elliott") as the feisty ringleaders who are bored with their group making a pittance each year by putting out boring 12-monthers with pictures of churches or flower arrangements, the movie is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser with a harmlessly fun sense of humor. But it's beguiling only throughout the planning and the posing -- and all the public discombobulation and personal-inhibition busting that results. Once the calendar is released, the picture runs out of steam and tries to keep afloat for a long third act by inventing false drama.
The catalyst for the calendar is the desire to buy a comfortable new couch for the waiting room of a hospital where many of the women spent long hours while one of their husbands was dying of cancer. Realizing they couldn't possible raise enough with their usual endeavors, Mirren's character hits upon the novelty notion of posing nude when she see a cheesecake calendar on the wall of a mechanic's garage.
Continue reading: Calendar Girls Review
This year's Cannes-winning, observational drama-commentary about the violence-deadened soul of America, Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" was clearly inspired by the 1999 student massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. -- although "inspired" may be a poor choice of words. The film has so little to say about such events and the culture which produces them that it becomes paradoxically tedious once the killing starts.
Structured like verses in a round, overlapping in time, Van Sant's verite camera follows, one-by-one, a handful of seemingly unremarkable kids (the director cast mostly non-actors) going through the paces of a seemingly unremarkable day in lengthy tracking shots that become strangely intimate and engrossing in their moment-by-moment normalcy.
A nerdy girl is hassled by her gym coach for wearing sweats instead of shorts. A jock throws wads of paper at a quiet boy in class for no discernable reason. A bulimia squad of catty Barbies gossips over lunch before, in a sarcastic touch of dark humor, giggling their way into the bathroom and taking side-by-side stalls in which to upchuck what they just ate.
Continue reading: Elephant Review
There is a gripping, sorrowful, quietly on-edge performance at the center of "Everything Put Together," in which Radha Mitchell plays a sunny young suburbanite and first-time mother thrown into the throes of psychological horror by the loss of her newborn baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Mitchell ("High Art," "Pitch Black") is a yuppie Alice in Anguish-land, falling down a rabbit hole of despair and denial after her social support system is yanked out from under her. Ostracized by her fellow young mother gal-pals, who convince themselves they're being helpful by letting her have her space, she finds no comfort from her suddenly apprehensive husband (Justin Louis) either, and she begins to withdraw into a subconscious world of fear and fantasy that threatens to slide into true madness.
Mitchell's portrayal is powerful, but writer Catherine Lloyd Burns (who plays one of the girlfriends) and director Marc Forster (who after shooting this 2000 film went on to make "Monster's Ball" [review coming this week]) don't let her raw, tragic performance speak for itself.
Continue reading: Everything Put Together Review
If it weren't for the cache that came with being a selection in Oprah Winfrey's short-lived book club, any film adaptation of Janet Fitch's "White Oleander" would likely have wound up as a weepy, cable TV movie-of-the-week melodrama in which struggling former stars cry out for credibility.
But Warner Bros. dollars and a dedicated pedigree cast make all the difference in bringing to the screen this earnest (if not profound) saga of a tender teenage girl's roller-coaster ride through foster care after her bourgeois artiste mother is imprisoned for poisoning an errant lover.
Michelle Pfeiffer shows some serious bite as the girl's affectionate but inattentive, domineering and pernicious jailbird mom, who becomes subtly but increasingly detrimental to her daughter's psyche with every prison visit. And with foster parents played by Robin Wright Penn (as an aging white-trash tart who sees the 14-year-old heroine as sexual competition) and Renée Zellweger (as a sweet but clingy, failed L.A. actress looking more for a girlfriend than a daughter), you might think inexperienced lead actress Alison Lohman (Fox TV's "Pasadena") would have a hard time standing out.
Continue reading: White Oleander Review
American Thighs was released on this day in 1994.
Gloo is a new supergroup consisting of UK mystic-beat producers Iglooghost and Kai Whiston as well as nu-pop singer/producer BABii.
Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), a radical environmentalist teams up with high school drop-out, Dena (Dakota Fanning),...
Gil John Biggs, Robert Bettencourt, Louis Laffer and Andy Guzman are four US Senators struggling...
While not hugely memorable, this enjoyably ridiculous comedy has moments that are sharp, thoughtful and...
Jeff could not be more different from his brother Pat. Where Pat is a successful...
A snappy script helps make this rather goofy comedy much more enjoyable than it should...
Yikes! Turning the tables on political correctness, affirmative action, and especially, the feminist movement,...
What is the man behind such parlor-room films as The Winslow Boy and House of...
What has Mr. T been doing for all these years since The A-Team? Well,...
Screenwriter Paul Rudnick (Adams Family Values, In and Out ) is wicked with the one-liners,...