Anchor Bay's March '05 Releases
29th Street (April 20/05)
Based on the true story, 29th Street opens with Frank Pesce (played by Anthony LaPaglia) winning the very first New York Lottery to the tune of six million dollars - an event that doesn't seem to bring the man a whole lot of joy. The remainder of the film unfolds in flashback, as we meet Pesce's immediate family - particularly his well-meaning but long-suffering father (played by Danny Aiello). 29th Street's been written and directed by George Gallo, and it seems obvious that the filmmaker has a real affection for these characters and their respective problems (that the real-life Frank Pesce has a role here as his own brother confirms that notion). But it's also clear that Gallo was far too close to the material to effectively edit the film; 29th Street is peppered with sequences that are either overlong or entirely superfluous. The result is a well-acted film that's pleasant enough, but marred by an egregiously padded-out running time. Still, there's no denying that the movie's conclusion is genuinely uplifting, ensuring that - among certain viewers - 29th Street will likely have a place as a perennial favorite.
Everybody's Doing It (April 19/05)
Less a movie and more a heavy-handed diatribe, Everybody's Doing It follows a group of high school students - most notably Angela (Lizzie Caplan) and her boyfriend, Travis (Bret Harrison) - as they find themselves confronted with a new program that rewards those who sign a "virginity pledge card" (which requires the signer to abstain from any kind of sexual contact). Those who refuse to sign are ostracized and treated like second-class citizens, something that Angela soon discovers for herself. It's clear that screenwriter James LaRosa is going for a satirical vibe here, something that's cemented by the film's emphasis on free-choice above everything else. But LaRosa imbues his script with a tone that's essentially the opposite of subtle, choosing to repeatedly hit the viewer over the head with his message. Though there are a few charismatic performances - Caplan in particular - they're lost underneath the rampant speechifying that seems to make up most of the film.
The Pirate Movie (May 24/05)
This legendary box-office bomb is just as bad as it's been made out to be, if not worse. The Pirate Movie follows the exploits of a mismatched pair (played by Christopher Atkins and Kristy McNichol) as they attempt to thwart the villainous advances of a ruthless buccaneer known as The Pirate King (Ted Hamilton). It really is astounding just how completely and hopelessly inept The Pirate Movie is, as the film doesn't work as either a musical or an adventure flick or a romance (it just doesn't work). It's packed with tedious, forgettable songs and overly cartoonish characters, along with corny jokes that might appeal to dim-witted children (and even they might roll their eyes at some of these bits). It certainly doesn't help that the movie's aged quite poorly, as filmmaker Ken Annakin's directorial choices bear an unfortunate resemblance to an '80s music video (a very bad '80s music video at that). Atkins and McNichol are cute and engaging, but that's hardly enough to allow the viewer to overlook the various atrocities on display.
no stars out of
Rhinestone (July 5/05)
Well, it certainly comes as no surprise to learn that Rhinestone currently occupies a spot on the Internet Movie Database's bottom 100 films of all time. This is a disastrous mess of a movie that essentially killed director Bob Clark's career (pre-Rhinestone: A Christmas Story and Porky's. Post-Rhinestone: Baby Geniuses and The Karate Dog), and proved without a doubt that Sylvester Stallone should stay far, far away from comedies. Dolly Parton plays Jake, a country singer trapped in a contract with a sleazy manager (played by Ron Leibman). The story kicks off when Jake decides to bet said sleazy manager that she can turn anyone off the street into an honest-to-god country singer. Enter loud-mouthed New York cab driver Nick Martinelli (Stallone). Astonishingly enough, Rhinestone's screenplay is credited to Stallone and Field of Dreams writer/director Phil Alden Robinson (although, if the IMDb is to be believed, Stallone essentially rewrote the entire thing). There's virtually nothing here that works, from the terminally unfunny dialogue to Stallone's obnoxious over-the-top performance to the mediocre songs (of which there are many). Put it this way: Rhinestone makes one pine for the subtle nuance of Parton's Straight Talk.
no stars out of
Vanishing Point (April 19/05)
It doesn't take a genius to discern the reasoning behind the appearance of Vanishing Point - a 1996 made-for-Fox television movie - on DVD, given the rising popularity of star Viggo Mortensen (the film also features appearances from Jason Priestley, Steve Railsback, and a pre-Nikita Peta Wilson). The story revolves Steve Kowalski (Mortensen), a Desert Storm veteran who now seems to make his living delivering cars from one end of the country to the other. While on one such delivery, Kowalski learns that his pregnant wife (played by Christine Elise) has just been rushed to hospital and the situation is apparently dire. Much to the chagrin of local and federal law enforcement, Kowalski - with the assistance of a mustachioed disc jockey known only as "the voice" (Jason Priestley, channeling Dennis Hopper) - decides to drive a '70s muscle car to the hospital (which is 1200 miles away). Vanishing Point is actually pretty entertaining, provided you don't think about it too much (ie why didn't Kowalski just hop on a plane as soon as he found out his wife was sick?) - though the film's reliance on flashbacks to fill in the backstory eventually becomes overwhelming. Likewise, there are a few too many pointless digressions - particularly Kowalski's encounter with a tribe of Native Americans - and it seems clear that there's just not enough plot to warrant a 90 minute running time. Still, Mortensen is quite effective and the car chases are exciting, so on that level Vanishing Point works.
Without a Trace (July 5/05)
That Without a Trace turns out to be a fairly dull little drama is somewhat surprising, given its potentially electrifying subject matter. The story kicks off with the disappearance of Susan Selky's (Kate Nelligan) little boy Alex, who was en route to school when he vanished. The police are called, including a dedicated detective named Al Menetti (Judd Hirsch), and an investigation begins. Weeks pass and there's still no sign of Alex, but Susan refuses to lose hope - much to the consternation of her friends and family. The opening scenes of Without a Trace are easily the film's most effective; stripped of music and flashy editing, we watch as Susan becomes more and more frantic as to her son's whereabouts (culminating, of course, in a phone call to the cops). But as the story progresses, the film becomes increasingly routine - something that's exacerbated by the fact that Susan just isn't a compelling or sympathetic character. Nelligan delivers an emotionally distant performance, which essentially ensures that the movie's never as gripping as it ought to be (Hirsch, on the other hand, is very good and completely believable as the burned-out inspector). Having said that, there's no denying that the movie picks up substantially as it draws to a close (despite the fact that Anchor Bay Entertainment has inexplicably seen fit to divulge the film's resolution on the back of the DVD and in its insert).