Mini Reviews (December 2000)
Bedazzled, American Psycho, Error in Judgment, The Second Arrival, Houdini, Captured
Bedazzled isn't a bad little film, really; it's just not terribly funny. Dudley Moore stars as the wimpish short-order cook with the hots for a waitress. Not having enough nerve to approach her, he inadvertantly summons the Devil, played by Peter Cook. The actors are all game (Moore, in particular, outshines the overacting Brendan Fraser and Peter Cook brings some menace to his Devil), and there are a few interesting sequences, but on the whole, the film suffers from too many '60s era flourishes (check out that dated disco scene) and extreme overlength.
Despite a game performance from Christian Bale, American Psycho never quite achieves lift-off. Bale stars as the American psycho, a young, '80s-era Wall Street tycoon who happens to murder people in his spare time. The film looks great (Bale's apartment, in particular) and features lots of good music (bet you'll never listen to Hip to be Square the same way again), but the film's failure to embrace the violence of the book is its downfall. Director Mary Harron tries to skirt the issue by having much of the violence occur off-screen, but all that does is place more emphasis on the already tiresome storyline. And the ending essentially negates everything that happened before it!
Never heard of this movie? Hopefully it'll stay that way. Joe Mantegna stars in this underwhelming straight-to-video riff on Fatal Attraction. The first hour is devoid of anything interesting, while the last 20 minutes sees more revelations than the movie warrants. Add to that a truly horrendous performance by Playboy personality Sung Hi Lee, and you've got yourself one hell of a stinker, Joe Mantegna or no Joe Mantegna.
no stars out of ****
The first rule of a sequel should be: Do not destroy the happy ending of the previous film. But that's exactly what The Second Arrival does in the first five minutes. And it's all downhill from there. All the creativity infused by writer/director David Twoey in the first movie has been replaced by generic sci-fi thrills (most of which can be seen in the first film, and better at that). Patrick Muldoon takes over for Charlie Sheen and it's not until you see an actor like Muldoon that you truly appreciate the nuanced work of Sheen. It's not a horrible film, really; it's just entirely predictable and essentially a rehash of the original.
I wanted to like this movie. I find the whole Houdini mystique to be entirely fascinating. Sadly, the route writer/director Pen Densham takes in telling his story is completely wrong. He chooses not to focus on the tricks and illusions that made him the legend he is today, focusing on his personal problems (his wife's alcoholism and his obsession with making his mother proud). To be fair, there are a few interesting scenes of Houdini at work in front of a spellbound crowd, but those scenes were few and far between sequences dealing with his troubled home life. And I could have forgiven all that if not for the completely ludicrous ending. Densham, for whatever reason, decided to have Houdini come back after his death as a ghost to explain why he was so driven to his wife. This metaphysical foolishness completely destroyed any sense of coherence the film had going for it, and leaves about the worst aftertaste I've ever encountered at a movie.
Here's a movie that takes a high-concept idea and runs with it. Nick Mancuso stars as a multi-millionaire that loses it when he catches two car theives attempting to jack his car. He calls up his nephew and turns the Porsche into something B.F. Skinner would be proud of - would-be car theives wind up trapped in the car when they try to steal it. The Wishmaster himself, Andrew Divoff, is the unlucky guinea pig and much of the movie follows Mancuso's semi-cruel interrogation of Divoff, culminating in a Turkish punishment. For a straight-to-video flick, this ain't bad. It's short, fast-paced, and the concept is genuinely interesting. Despite ham-fisted attempts to show that maybe Divoff isn't the real bad guy, the movie succeeds on a purely pulp level.