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SEPTEMBER 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 9



CURRENT

FEATURES
The Muse

ALSO THIS MONTH
"Heat" DVD

LAST MONTH
Eyes Wide Shut
Run Lola Run

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Short Takes
Grading from A-F

RUN LOLA RUN (R):
From the moment Lola (Franka Polente) steps onto the screen in Tom Tykwer's latest film, "Run Lola Run" becomes a furious journey that refuses to let up. [More]
A-

AMERICAN PIE (R):
While slightly immature and crude, this year's boundary stretching toilet humor comedy does have its moments - though not as many as last summer's "There's Something About Mary". Centered around a done-before plot of four high school senior who pledge to lose their virginity at the prom, "American Pie" tackles everything in high school's magnified culture including sexual exploration, jock stereotypes, fragile insecurities and even the recklessness of self-gratification.

While director Paul Weitz too often relies on the obvious, and cliched, humor, he includes enough unexpected surprises to make the film worthwhile. The apple pie scene from which the title stems is irreverent yet pointed, mocking the hyped up teen sex drive. Equally as risqué, an internet filming scheme gone awry provides the perfect backdrop for the conflicting inadequacies and desires of the main characters. B+

EYES WIDE SHUT (R):
Stanley Kubrick's swan song work is a curious blend of star actors giving solid performances, voyeurism, and dream - almost fugue like - imagery. [More]
B-

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (R):
With nonnegotiable skill, the filmmakers put forth a picture that demands horror be understood on the most primitive level: not the pretense of blood and gore and death, but rather the creation of an unacceptable, insurmountable fear that even death itself can not suspend. [More]
A-

- Kevin Ridolfi, Laura Dave,
Tim Clifton






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  The Muse

 
THE MUSE
Rating: B-

Starring Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges. Cameos by Rob Reiner, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron, Wolfgang Puck. Written and Directed by Albert Brooks. Rated PG13. Running Time: 97 minutes.

Albert Brooks


TIM CLIFTON

"The Muse" is a sporadically funny film that never quite builds up enough steam to really take off. The film was written, directed, and stars Albert Brooks ("Mother", "Lost in America", "Broadcast News"). Brooks is better known as a short filmmaker and that accurately describes the problem with this picture: it's like a series of short films, the result is that the transition and pacing take too long to build momentum from one funny idea to another.

The idea behind the story is that a number of successful filmmakers in Hollywood (cameos include James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, and Rob Reiner) and the occasional restaurant impresario (Wolfgang Puck) turn to a muse (Sharon Stone) for inspiration when they are creatively blocked. In return for her services she is, unfortunately, high maintenance: it is necessary to wait on her hand and foot and provide gifts (preferably from Tiffanys). And, of course, there's doubt regarding whether Stone is the real thing, a superlative con artist, or crazy.

The film begins with Brooks receiving a humanitarian award (itself a joke) and then discovers that he's out of a job when his latest action adventure script is viewed as flat by the producer. There's some pointed humor here, too, where no one can seem to tell him what's really wrong, and Brooks does a great job of capturing the useless advice given by film producers who clearly could care less about what happens to him and who can't even remember the title of that one screenplay Brooks wrote years ago nominated for an Oscar. In desperation, Brooks turns to a fellow, more successful screenwriter played by Jeff Bridges. Bridges confesses that he employs the use of a muse when he is bereft of ideas. Brooks is soon schlepping around, running errands for Sharon Stone while putting her up at the Four Seasons Hotel and waiting for inspiration to strike while his wife (Andie MacDowell) becomes increasingly suspicious.

This film is too sweet natured to skewer the industry like Altman's "The Player" but doesn't build enough comic steam to succeed on its own terms, culminating in an all too obvious ending. One scene is exceeding creepy, when Brooks thinks he's meeting with Steven Spielberg. There's some flashes of humor here as Brooks has to walk what seems to be miles for the meeting. But when he finally makes it, it turns out that it's Spielberg's cousin Stan (played by Steven Wright, the standup comic who, by the way, actually won an Oscar for a short film he made several years ago). Wright's deadpan advice is enough to make your skin crawl. But there are a few laugh out loud scenes, particularly when Brooks cuts through the crap that people are trying to feed him or as he suffers to meet the muse's particular and demanding requests. There is also a great dinner party scene where Brooks has a fractured English conversation with someone who misunderstands everything Brooks says.

Some of the jokes really depend on knowing movie trivia. For example, when Brooks runs into Scorsese who frantically wants to meet with the muse. Scorsese says that he wants to remake "Raging Bull" with a thin (and angry) guy. One of the stories about "Raging Bull" was that De Niro gained 60 pounds to play Jake La Mota in his declining years, something that many people may not know. But Brooks is smart and gets a good laugh when he cautions the hyper Scorsese against having any more caffeine for the day. Rob Reiner thanks the muse for "The American President." And in one of the most subtle movie references I have ever seen, when James Cameron gives a boxed gift to the muse, mentioning that he used his "Titanic" bonus to buy it, Stone points to her neck, suggesting/asking if he is giving her the necklace worn by Kate Winslet in the film. When he shakes his head, she slams the door on him.

If you're a bit of a movie buff, you'll get a little more mileage out of the humor, but, while the idea of a Hollywood muse is a great one, and there are several laugh out loud scenes, the execution is slight, making you feel that the potential was barely mined.



TIM CLIFTON is Renaissance Online Magazine's staff movie reviewer.



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