Mini Reviews (February/March 2002)
Highlander: Endgame, A Weekend in the Country, Just Write, Benefit of the Doubt
Highlander: Endgame (February 23/02)
That there wasn't a warning on the front of the Highlander: Endgame box that read "do not under any circumstances rent this if you've never seen an episode of the Highlander TV series" is completely baffling, as the film has clearly been designed to appeal to die-hard Highlander fans only. The story has something to do with the Immortal from the series (played by Adrian Paul) hooking up with his good buddy Duncan (Christopher Lambert, reprising his role for presumably the last time) to kick the ass of an evil Immortal (played by Bruce Payne, in a performance remarkably similar to his work in Passenger 57). Lambert gets to say, yet again, "there can be only one" but that's about it. The time-shifting structure becomes incredibly tiresome in a hurry - not to mention confusing - and the permanent storyline isn't all that compelling either. The most ludicrous moment comes when Lambert and Paul are plotting to destroy Payne, but eschew attacking him together because it apparently goes against their code - choosing instead to have one kill the other, in order for the survivor to be more powerful. Oh, for cripes sake...
A Weekend in the Country (March 25/02)
Fluffier than a bale of cotton candy, A Weekend in the Country is a Robert Altmanesque look at a group of folks that spend, not surprisingly, a weekend in the country. Among the various visitors and denizens are Jack Lemmon as a desperate concert promoter, Richard Lewis as an angst-ridden comic, Rita Rudner as a pregnant food columnist, Dudley Moore as the owner of a successful vinyard...the list goes on and on. A Weekend in the Country is entertaining, so long as one doesn't expect anything deep or meaningful. Every major character undergoes some sort of catharsis during the course of the movie, which usually leads to a happier lifestyle (Lewis finds love, Lemmon fulfills his lifelong dream, etc, etc). The whole thing is so inoffensive it's hard to really say anything bad about the movie. At just over 90-minutes and with this many characters, one would have to be awfully cynical not to find something here worth embracing.
Just Write (March 26/02)
Speaking of light and fluffy... Just Write stars Jeremy Piven as a semi-successful Hollywood tour bus driver (he co-owns the company with his father, played by Alex Rocco). Passing himself off as a successful screenwriter, he gets to know an up-and-coming actress (Sherilyn Fenn) and even gets himself hired as a script doctor on her latest project. And since this is a romantic comedy, Fenn does eventually discover Piven's deception but honestly, do you really think that there's going to be anything but a happy ending? Just Write is enjoyably forgettable, with exceptionally charismatic actors and an appealing storyline. The film goes awry with some lame subplots (most of the stuff involving Rocco should have been excised), but c'mon, how many opportunities are you going to get to see Piven (who's usually relegated to scene-stealing buddy roles) play a leading man?
Benefit of the Doubt (March 27/02)
Here's a case of an intriguing setup completely foiled by a disastrous (not to mention routine) second half. Donald Sutherland stars as a man who, 20 years ago, was convicted of murdering his wife - mostly on the testimony of his daughter. Now he's out and his daughter (played by Amy Irving) is worried that he's back for revenge. She soon realizes, though, that he in fact wants to make amends... or does he have more sinister plans up his sleeve? For a little while, Benefit of the Doubt is a completely intriguing look at a broken man that apparently just wants to get to know his daughter and grandson. But then (for whatever reason) it transforms into a cheesy thriller, with Sutherland morphing into a reprehensible monster. And as if that wasn't bad enough, it turns into a bad cheesy thriller. How bad? Irving's character, who had previously appeared to be semi-intelligent, becomes all-out moronic - choosing to run from Sutherland at every occasion, even though staying put would have been the safest thing to do (such as when she encounters Sutherland at a busy diner. The smart thing to do would be to stay there and call the police, but nope, she runs). But that's not even the worst part. At one point, Irving and her son decide to hide aboard a houseboat, and of course Sutherland finds them there. A boat chase ensues. A houseboat chase. Finally, the pursuit ends in a rocky region, with Sutherland following Irving and son up a ridiculously perilous mountain (never mind that Sutherland had been shot minutes before). What a waste.