Sunday, January 29, 2006

The antepenultimate batch

COME EARLY MORNING

Written and Directed
By Joey Lauren Adams

Arkansas is just like anyplace else. You have the same people with dysfunctional families looking for love in all the wrong places. Sometimes they make good stories and sometimes they don’t.

This film gives an opportunity for all those actors with southern accents to do a romantic, slice-of-life melodrama that would otherwise take place in New York or LA.

Lucy(Ashley Judd) is a contractor who when not working or taking care of her grandparents likes to get drunk and get laid. This is what basically happens until she meets Cal(Jeffrey Donovan) and there’s the beginnings of a romance, something that freaks Lucy out, annoying both Cal and her roommate Kim(Laura Prepon). She also finds her long-lost Dad(Scott Wilson), who was once a brilliant guitar player, and there’s a tentative reconciliation while they go to church together, but it never gets that far.

In fact this film is generally about nothing. There’s an attempt to show some growth in some relationships, but there really isn’t and we’re left where we started.

Joey Adams, who’s one of those quirky ingĂ©nue actresses has decided to further her career in a new direction before losing her good looks to aging. This is not a great film by any means, but it’s a good start all the same.

Salvage/U.S.

Written and Directed by
Josh and Jeff Crook

It's interesting to go back to the IMBD and see who's ripped off who. For instance, take Jack Sholder's TV movie “12:01” which first came out in 1993. It was an expansion of a similarly named short, which came out a couple of years before. Now there was a delay in bringing it to the small screen, and in the meantime Harold Ramis and screenwriter Danny Rubin the concept off as “Groundhog Day” and “12:01” was considered a cheap rip-off of a brilliant film.

Now, “Groundhog Day” was remade in Italian in 2004 and the concept was used as the basis of an “X-Files” episode called “Monday.” The concept of living recycling a day or two over and over again has become so famous that doing it again would seem gratuitous and redundant. So why did the Crook brothers even bother?

This time, the victim of this cosmic nightmare is college student
Claire Parker(.Lauren Currie Lewis), who works at a gas station in order to pay for school. She doesn't like driving, so after work she gets her boyfriend Jimmy(Cody Darbe) to drive her. But today, someone else is in the car, a creepy fellow by the name of Duke Desmond (Chris Ferry). He looks like a serial killer, and talks like one. Clair is scared, and locks him out of the house, although he gets in via the back door and does his murderous thing.

This is “Groundhog Day” as horror film. Clair gets to live the same day again, but this time is fear of what she thinks is a dream. Various apparitions of Duke come and go. He attacks her and the cops, who know that he's already been killed by them, think that Clair is nuts.

We go through about three more variations on the theme before a really nifty supernatural ending. This ending is telegraphed from near the beginning of the film, but we don't really notice that until near the end. It's a quarter the way decent for a cheesy little horror film, which is actually better than many of them. For genre fans only.

ALPHA DOG / U.S.A

Written and Directed
by Nick Cassavetes

“Based on a true story” is one of those taglines that could mean anything. There was this drug dealer with the unlikely name of Jesse James Hollywood who was the youngest person ever to make the FBI’s “most wanted” list. He was still on the lam when production of the film began, and the prosecutors wanted this to become a theatrical episode of “America’s Most Wanted” and thus gave Cassavetes all the help he needed.

In order to avoid lawsuits, the names were changed to protect the innocent, but that didn’t work as is besides the point, however….

We begin with a TV reporter interviewing a certain Mr. Truelove(Bruce Willis), who’s son Johnny(Emile Hirsch) is the top teenaged drug dealer on the lam. He makes some comments and we go into flashback, where our villain and his homies
Frankie (Justin Timberlake), Elvis (Shawn Hatosy) and Tiko (Fernando Vargas) are hanging out in Johnny’s palatial estate. All seems to be going well when former friend Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) comes up short with the full amount of a loan that he owes. Johnny throws the money in his face and tells him to come back with the whole thing. This leads to a yet another feud for Jake, since his father(David Thornton) and stepmother(Sharon Stone) won’t give him another cent.

While his reaction to his parents’ rebuff is one of just yelling and cursing, his reaction to Johnny’s is a little more “energetic” and they retaliate by kidnapping Frank’s little half-brother Zack (Anton Yelchin). Is it for ransom? No actually. It’s basically a bunch of stoners babysitting the kid and having a good time while the kid’s family goes nuts with worry and grief.

It’s really amazing that this is based on a true story because the progression of events are so incredibly dumb [they number the witnesses in the case and it’s something like fifty] that it’s barely believable, Zach especially. I mean various characters tell him to escape and he doesn’t, he ‘s having too good a time. That’s California, I guess.

The acting is really good. Timberlake has his breakout performance here, proving that he’s not some pretty boy from a teen pop idol group. The rest of the cast does a good job too. The film is decent but not as good as it should have been given the cast and director. Maybe it’s the story. Wait until it hits cable.

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