MAY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 5

CURRENT

FEATURE
Frequency
American Psycho
28 Days

ALSO THIS MONTH
U-571: Quality action overshadows inadequate plot in submarine thriller.

Gladiator: Ridley Scott's perfect balance of horrific violence and Machiavellian intrigue.

The Virgin Suicides: An unconventional trip from suburban mystique to teenage suicide.

LAST MONTH
Oscars provide a revealing look into Hollywood's complex personality.

Waking the Dead: Even after death, the grip of love remains strong (and confusing).

ARCHIVES



Short Takes
Grading from A-F

American Psycho AMERICAN PSYCHO (R):
I have to give credit where credit's due: Mary Harron tried to be unique with her artsy psychotic dissection. In a horror genre dominated by cookie-cutter "Scream" clones, variety is wonerful. Rare, but refreshing. In this case, different is just, well, different. The plot of the movie is open to varied, scattered interpretations: whether the killer is actually a killer or just such a faceless dork that no one believes his crimes. It's usually the mark of a good movie if you're thinking on the way out of the theater, unfortunately for Harron much of this thinking is the bastard child of bewilderment and confusion. Artsy, over-examinations can only go so far before becoming comical. "American Psycho" crosses the line into the realm of the absurd.
B-

28 DAYS (PG-13):
Without getting too seeped in an over-depressive portrait of an alcohol and drug rehab clinic, "28 Days" sheds light on the broken lives in an almost light-hearted, sweeping tour. Sandra Bullock lights up her scenes as usual, even though she plays a recovering addict. Her typical quirkiness is matched by the odd, disjointed cast of fellow patients who besides chanting and singing help her find her way. While the seemingly unrealistic cheerfulness of Betty Thomas' film sometimes works against the serious topic, it's nice to go to a movie occasionally without being bludgeoned with self-importance.
B+

- Kevin Ridolfi



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  FrequencyDennis Quaid, James Caviezel, Elizabeth Mitchell
 
FREQUENCY
Rating: A-

Starring Dennis Quaid, James Caviezel, Elizabeth Mitchell, André Braugher, Noah Emmerich. Directed by Gregory Hoblit.

Rated PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images. Running time: 117m.


RELATED FILM
Also Directed by Gergory Hoblit:

Primal Fear (1996)
Nominated: 1997 Oscar Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton).
Buy It today


DAN SULLIVAN

Frequency is the type of flick that has a great potential to be a crappy Start Trek: Voyager episode. A son in 1999 can communicate with his dead father, very much alive in 1969, through the same ham radio. Plot-wise, the audience could be in for lame setups like major lottery and stock market manipulation -- which we'd all do in real life -- eliminating the need to do it in a summer movie. Also increasing the crap-potential is the last time I paid to see Dennis Quaid in a lead role was Dragonheart, an experience I refer to as ticket-sanctioned-robbery.

But conceptually, Frequency held a lot of interest for me, like a rockin' episode of Star Trek: Voyager where the Borg develop a Death Star and chase those Federation guys into a supernova but Ricardo Montalban sets off the Genesis device at the same time Nimoy mind-melds with a talking rock.

At times, Quaid is a human crux to the movie patron. He's a great actor who often appears in truly horrible films, probably to keep busy while his wife Meg Ryan is filming the latest Nora Ephron-induced celluloid estrogen venting. But every once in a while he shows his acting prowess, and is worthy of a projected film viewing instead of a home video rental. Dennis Quaid has the ability to play complex characters struggling with their inner demons (see his Doc Holiday in Costner's Wyatt Earp for proof), and lacks the square-inch facial moles of his brother Randy, making him easier to watch onscreen for two hours. Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday allowed Dennis to do his best Dan Marino impression, and he was the highlight of that film.

In Frequency Quaid plays Frank Sullivan, a New York fireman who dies in a warehouse blaze while trying to save a homeless girl. His son John is only six-years-old at the time of his death, and grows up a hardened man. John's 36-year-old persona is played by James Caviezel, who recently stared at birds and trees while his fellow soldiers were shot to death in The The Thin Red Line. Caviezel plays John Sullivan in a constantly angered or frantic state, with few moments of composure. A great screenplay saves him from putting forth an Eric Roberts-type cheesy performance, and his best moments occur during the ham radio conversations with his father.

Frequency is essentially a father/son relationship story with a sci-fi twist, and an action-movie plot structure. Keeping that dynamic in mind and the lack of character depth in most of those films, the relationship between Frank and John is the hidden jewel of Frequency. Frank's reciprocal love for John transcends the time lost between them, and those ham radio conversation scenes avoid the sand trap of melodrama. The changes in the timeline are presented in a unique fashion, without beating the audience over the head with flashbacks or special effects. The supporting cast, especially Andre Braugher, is under-used. They do add credence to Caviezel's stoic presentation of John Sullivan, and kudos to the makeup artists who transform them 30 years in age without making them look like wet newspaper. Unlike Pacino's final scene in Godfather III, Braugher doesn't look like a sitting lump of mashed potatoes because he survived three additional decades.

Director Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear) deserves credit for letting the story carry the film. The love of baseball between Frank and John is not just a symbol for their similarities, it's a passion. The scenes set in 1969 are full of gleaming classic cars and the small-neighborhood feel of Frank and John's New York neighborhood is approached with simple but clear cinematography. Toby Emmerich's screenplay is rich with twists and turns, and keeps the audience engaged. Plot-driven summer movies are a welcome retreat from the pathetic norm. Like last summer's The Sixth Sense, the less you know about Frequency the better, and this review is in keeping with that philosophy. (Avoid the previews if you can, as some of the better surprises are revealed with a casual inspection.) This film exceeded my high expectations, and I recommend seeing it before most of the story is retold at your office water cooler in the next few weeks.

Since Frequency lacks the Bruce Willis draw of Sixth Sense, it may be lost in the wake of bigger films like Gladiator and Mission Impossible 2. I hope this doesn't happen, and like Sixth Sense draws on strong word of mouth to stay alive. The fact that Frequency lost to the latest Flintstone movie in its opening weekend shows the bad taste Dragonheart may have left in the mouths of the movie-going public. What did we expect? Sean Connery as an animated dragon? We were fools! Blame yourself!

Frequency's a good shot at Dennis Quaid redemption. And the sooner we all forget about Jaws 3-D, the better.



DAN SULLIVAN is the staff technology writer for Renaissance Online Magazine.

PICTURES copyright © 1999 New Line Productions, Inc..



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